Media advisory 1# Whanganui DHB well-prepared to deal with coronavirus


10 March 2020


The outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19 presents a rapidly-evolving situation and Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) has been monitoring this since the virus was first reported in January.


WDHB formed an Incident Management Team as a first step and this team has been receiving updates daily from the Ministry of Health.


With the first cases of COVID-19 being reported in New Zealand, a senior management team has been set up to make sure Whanganui is well-prepared to handle any local cases.


Important health guidelines have been posted on the Whanganui DHB Facebook page and website and posters are on display at entrances to the hospital.


These guidelines include:

  • Wash hands regularly with soap and dry thoroughly, or use hand sanitiser;
  • Cover coughs and sneezes – do them into the crook of your elbow;
  • Use tissues when spitting and dispose of tissues immediately;
  • Avoid touching the mouth and nose
  • Do not share food utensils;
  • Do not attend events or celebrations if you are unwell or in self-isolation;
  • Consider using a face mask if you have COVID-19 symptoms - a cough, sneezing, a runny nose, or you are caring for someone with these symptoms.


Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other respiratory illnesses such as influenza and do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. Symptoms can include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.


The virus can cause acute respiratory infection. Most of the infected people have had mild to moderate illness.


Whanganui Medical Officer of Health, Dr Patrick O’Connor, said that people who felt unwell and had these symptoms should phone the Healthline on 0800 358 5453 – this is a dedicated phone line for dealing with possible COVID-19 cases, and it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


If people have symptoms of coronavirus and need to see their GP, they should phone ahead for relevant instructions. Likewise, people heading to Whanganui Hospital should phone ahead on 06 348 1234.


When they arrive at the hospital or medical clinic, they should not enter the facility but should wait in their car and someone would come out to see them.


Dr O’Connor said the DHB had a pandemic plan in place if the situation escalated, however Ministry of Health advice was that the likelihood of a widespread outbreak remained low. The DHB was also well stocked with the necessary personal protective equipment.


He said people who had visited mainland China, Iran, South Korea or northern Italy in the past 14 days should self-isolate themselves for 14 days even if they had no symptoms. They should call the Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and tell them they were in self-isolation.


People who had visited Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Thailand or the rest of Italy in the past 14 days should call the Healthline and inform them and watch out for symptoms. He advised people thinking of travelling overseas to check for latest travel advisories.