Coronavirus: Nurses concerned new N95 mask rules in MIQ don't go far enough

Nurses are concerned about new rules around the use of N95 masks in managed isolation and quarantine facilities don't go far enough.

The Ministry of Health announced on Thursday workers in MIQ facilities should now wear the protective masks when within two metres of someone who is a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

It comes after outbreaks occurred in quarantine facilities and revelations staff were wearing surgical masks while working.

Nurses have been saying for some weeks that it was unacceptable and unsafe they only had basic surgical masks.

The Ministry of Health has obviously listened to these concerns and changed its policy.

While nurses say it's a step in the right direction, it doesn't go far enough.

"We need to acknowledge [that] yes there is a risk, make these masks available, make sure people can use them safely and make it a universal thing throughout the managed isolation facilities and the quarantine [facilities]," Kate Weston from the NZ Nurses Organisation says.

"Acknowledging the risk that you don't know for sure what you're dealing with."

She believes all staff in MIQ facilities should get N95 masks and they should be allowed to choose themselves when to wear one.

Nurses feel so strongly about this that they've reserved the right to walk off the job if they feel unsafe.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Thursday the updated guidance follows a review of concerns that MIQ workers could catch the virus through transmission of it in the air.

"Protecting our frontline MIQ workers is a top priority in the ongoing effort to eliminate COVID-19 and this updated guidance will help do that," he said.

"The provision of appropriate PPE has always been an important part of protecting the health of our frontline workers. We are always improving our approach to this, to reflect what we learn from experience and the growing global knowledge of how the virus operates."

The Ministry of Health said fit testing and training for staff is underway and is expected to be completed early next month.