Auckland doctor takes action to protect staff from COVID-19

An Auckland doctor has locked his clinic's doors to protect his patients and staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Garsing Wong from Auckland Central Medical is trying to prevent potential COVID-19 patients from turning up at his clinic unannounced. 

There are plans for community-based assessment clinics to be set up but so far only Christchurch has confirmed it's opening its first dedicated site on Wednesday. 

Wong, who is also an Auckland Primary Health Organisation clinical board member, says the clinics are needed urgently nationwide to alleviate the pressure on doctors. 

"They need to be set up in a very timely fashion otherwise general practices would not be able to cope should we see more COVID-19," Wong says. 

After closing his clinic, Wong says some patients have taken exception to not being allowed in. 

"It has led to a patient feeling very frustrated and venting their frustration at the staff, and I would like to emphasise to the public how important it is that we take this seriously," Wong tells Newshub. 

He says closing his practice is all about protecting staff and patients who may be at the clinic. 

He's also taken the step of leaving the office altogether to test possible COVID-19 cases, telling Newshub he's tested four people after hours in an underground car park or "safe zone" next to his clinic. 

He says such a regime for testing for COVID-19 is "not ideal" but his team have to make do with the situation to protect the wider public. 

On Saturday the Ministry of Health changed the testing criteria for COVID-19, allowing GPs to use their own judgement if they suspect someone requires testing. 

The Ministry website states that "due to the ongoing changing global and domestic situation, clinical judgement should apply as to whether someone who doesn't quite meet the current case definition should be tested or not". 

The Ministry of Health says that on Tuesday ESR conducted 500 separate tests. 

Another three people were confirmed to have the virus today, bringing the total number of cases in New Zealand to 11.