Coronavirus: Dr Bloomfield announces advancements in contact tracing

Dr Ashley Bloomfield announces contact tracing in New Zealand has become a nationwide automated system.

The Director-General of Health was speaking at Monday's 4pm press conference when he commended health workers for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly where they try to find all close contacts of confirmed cases of coronavirus.

There are currently over 1400 cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand which have had to be traced.

"Contact tracing was one of the first things that we started to scale up including creating a national service with more than 200 staff who have had the sole focus of tracking down close contacts of confirmed and probable cases," Dr Bloomfield says. 

"Essentially what we are doing here is transforming what was a very local, manual process into a national automated system with scale. 

"This is the first time this has been done in New Zealand and I'm proud of what the team has achieved over the last month."

He also announced an independent report by Dr Ayesha Verrall had evaluated the process recently to find out how it could improve. 

The report will be released publicly on Monday evening but Dr Bloomfield says they are already looking to implement many of the recommendations.

"Dr Verrall has provided a report with very constructive feedback and guidance on how to further build our contact tracing capability and capacity and to ensure it achieves our aspiration of gold standard...

"A number of those recommendations have already been put in place or responded to and work continues apace on the others." 

Dr Bloomfield also commended the amount of testing New Zealand was completing to find cases of COVID-19.

"These are two areas of the public health response that we scaled significantly over the last two months. 

"We have worked hard to ensure New Zealand implemented its own testing capability and we have scaled that up significantly week on week while improving our supply lines for testing kits. 

"This has supported our high testing rates that the Prime Minister referred to, and these are amongst the highest in the world."

He says in the coming weeks they are trying to "hunt out" any undetected cases of coronavirus as well as increasing testing of asymptomatic workers in facilities where there have been recent cases. This will include those working in health care, essential businesses and the tourism industry.