Concern for Southland Hospital if coronavirus cases increase

Southland is home to one of New Zealand's biggest COVID-19 clusters and the local health board is worried Southland Hospital in Invercargill won't cope if more people are admitted with the virus.

Right now the region is New Zealand's epicentre with 195 cases, one person is in intensive care and the outbreak there is growing. The cluster from a wedding at Bluff's Oyster Cove increased to 81 overnight.  

The Southern DHB says it's "been able to manage with existing staff" but if occupancy goes up "any such stand-down of staff would have an impact".

Currently, 11 frontline staff have been told to stay away from their workplaces after treating a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says "Southern DHB will be looking if they need to provide other staff from Dunedin" but currently isn't concerned about staffing in the area.

But those on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 are feeling increasingly at risk. 

There have been 64 health workers who have caught the virus so far. Of these 20 are support or care workers, 17 are nurses, seven are doctors and three are medical students.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton says healthcare workers are at more risk and it's important they're protected.

"Obviously working in the frontline is a potentially risky place to be so by being able to report on the figures here gives us a picture of how well frontline workers are being protected".

Dr Bloomfield says they are looking to determine what proportion of these cases occurred inside the workplace and what was outside.

While it appears we've managed to slow the growth of our coronavirus outbreak with lower numbers of new daily cases, the size of the clusters is a concern for health officials.

There are currently 12 clusters in New Zealand, and two include more than 80 confirmed cases.

One is from the Bluff wedding and the other is from Marist College in Auckland with a total of 84 confirmed cases.