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Source: New Zealand Government

  • Ministry of health implementing all of Dr Ayesha Verrall’s recommendations
  • Work is underway or complete on all recommendations
  • $500 million COVID-19 health response fund significantly increased in Public Health Units capacity

Work to progress recommendations from Dr Ayesha Verrall’s audit of New Zealand’s COVID-19 contact tracing processes is well underway which means the service will be well placed to handle any extra demand, should it be needed.

Health Minister David Clark today released an update on the work showing that five of the eight recommendations had been completed or were now considered ‘business as usual’, including:

  • progressing with expanding the capacity of the Public Health Units (PHUs),
  • developing an Outbreak Preparedness Plan,
  • ensuring close contacts in home quarantine were contacted every day to monitor for adherence to isolation and to assess their symptoms
  • Public Health Units getting access to the National Contact Tracing Solution (NCTS)

Recommendation five, that the NCCS (National Close Contact Service) and Medical Officers of Health should collaborate to better define referral protocols and triage systems, especially with respect to more complex or high-risk contacts is now seeing significantly more collaboration between the NCCS and Medical Officers of Health, but this collaboration is considered a longer-term process.

“The PHUs have more than tripled their capacity and can now deal with up to 185 cases a day – that’s up from about 50 cases a day seven weeks ago.

“On top of that the NCCS, which didn’t even exist eight weeks ago, has more than 200 staff who can make up to 10,000 close contact calls a day.

“The three further recommendations are all well underway, and Sir Brian Roche and the Contact Tracing Assurance Committee appointed last week, are providing oversight and advice on how best to continue implementing Dr Verrall’s recommendations.

“Dr Verrall has reviewed the progress against her recommendations and noted in her letter to Director-General of Health Dr Bloomfield that she was pleased to see the work to further increase PHU capacity, and that the draft preparedness plan is clear, flexible and PHU-centred. She also provided further advice on the indicators. The Ministry is progressing this work,” David Clark said.

Recommendation three was that key data indicators should be measured. Three of the ‘critical’ indicators are already published on the Ministry’s website. Those include effectiveness of public education and access to healthcare, effectiveness of testing and laboratory process and effectiveness of public health response. A plan is being developed to implement and monitor the remaining indicators to ensure we know that a high quality and timely service is being delivered.

The Ministry is working closely with the Public Health Units on the NCTS and they continue to ensure it is fit for purpose (recommendation seven).

“CTAC has commenced its work and is actively getting up to speed in terms of their understanding of the work already underway and the work that needs to be advanced. Good progress has been made to date and we will seek to strengthen whatever is required, recognising that the issues at play are broader than just health, they impact on how we will all ensure each other’s personal safety and wellbeing,” Sir Brian Roche said.

“Dr Verrall has said we need to contact more people, more quickly. That’s why we have already added more staff to the PHUs and the NCCS. That’s also why we’re progressing with a tracing app.

“The contact tracing app is well developed and expected to be released for voluntary registration very soon. The Ministry of Health is working in collaboration with a number of agencies including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Government’s own Chief Digital Officer to progress this work,” said David Clark.