Coronavirus: Government reveals three contingency plans in case of community outbreak over summer

The Government has announced the three scenarios it has rehearsed in preparation for potential community cases appearing in New Zealand over the summer holidays.

Earlier on Tuesday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed alert level changes would be a "last resort" in the event of a community outbreak during the holidays. However, he said Kiwis following guidelines and the Government having plans in place will give New Zealanders "the best chance" of enjoying summer.

Hipkins said there are three broad scenarios the Government has planned for if there are community cases, and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield detailed these plans on Tuesday afternoon.

The first scenario involves a border worker testing positive as part of routine testing.

"In this situation, we would simply invoke our current test, trace, and isolate response that has served us so well over recent months," Dr Bloomfield said.

The second scenario the Government's been rehearsing involves a member of the public who has a connection to the border testing positive while on holiday.

"This, again, would involve our test, trace, and isolate approach, but it might also include some ramped up local testing, some targeted restrictions on movement, and, potentially, regional alert level changes may be required," he said.

The third scenario, which Dr Bloomfield said is potentially the "most serious", involves a person testing positive after returning home having been at a major event, such as a festival, in another region.

"Now, this scenario could lead to a nationwide increase in the alert level, testing and tracing being significantly ramped up around a number of regions and other events cancelled, and eventually people being asked to stay in place in their bubbles," he said.

"In each of these scenarios, and in the second and third in particular, there are extensive contingency plans in place, both across the health system and wider government."

Coronavirus: Government reveals three contingency plans in case of community outbreak over summer
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Hipkins says if there's an outbreak at a campground or music festival, then people would have to stay put while health officials assessed the situation.

During the summer holiday, he urges New Zealanders to continue following "basic" public health guidelines, such as regular hand-washing, scanning QR codes and enabling the Bluetooth function on the COVID Tracer app, and staying home if you're feeling unwell.

"Although we can't predict exactly where or how a community case might emerge, New Zealanders can be reassured planning has been extensive, and has included scenario testing and understanding actions that might be needed, including, as a last resort, alert level changes," he says.

"If a positive case was found in the community [during summer], we'd use the usual approach to communicating with the public - updates and advice would first be provided by me and/or the Director-General of Health or his delegate."

People in remote locations where there is limited cell phone coverage would likely be safe from exposure to the virus, he says, but they would need to follow public health advice after returning from these locations, which would be "a personal responsibility".

"In a worst-case scenario, if it became clear there was a high risk of widespread transmission, you'd need to stay where you are and in your bubble until you get official advice. We don't want people rushing home and possibly taking the virus with them."

He said this could include staying in your holiday location longer than planned while waiting for official advice and having a backup plan for homes or pets if you can't return right away.