As you know, World Health Organization (WHO), has declared coronavirus as a pandemic. It is affecting over 166 countries worldwide including NZ. The number of people affected by the virus is climbing up very fast. Consequently, the number of deaths from it is also rapidly going up.

By comparison, death rate from influenza virus is 0.1%, where as death rate from coronavirus is 3.4% on current figures. Therefore, coronavirus is much deadlier than the influenza virus especially in older people over 70 years of age and those with serious pre-existing illness. It can cause fatalities in any age group. Men appear to be more susceptible to the coronavirus than women.

The symptoms of coronavirus infections are cough, runny nose, fever, shortness of breath and flu like illness. The temperature is often above 38.0C. The number of cases in NZ is growing steadily as more people are tested positive for the virus. One way of containing this virus is early identification of people carrying this virus and self-isolation. People suspected of contacting the virus should be placed in isolation for at least 14 days.  It also involves general public avoiding unnecessary contacts with people. Wearing protective gear and washing hands thoroughly is very highly recommended. Such measures have shown the transmission of coronavirus reduced and contained in China. Unfortunately, Europe has become the epicenter of the virus and governments there are taking drastic measures like shutting down public places and transports. Here in NZ we are taking preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Overseas studies indicate that the best way to prevent the propagation of corona virus is self-isolation. The least contact we have with others, the better the chance of stopping the spread of this virus. As you have heard, overseas countries are taking drastic measures of self-isolation. Here, the NZ government has also advised citizens not to undertake unnecessary trips and stay home policy.

It is very important that health professionals and allied workers stay fit and well to look after the health of the nation. We want our health system to be in a robust condition to fight this illness together with you the public. We all have to play our roles on a war footing.

Like other public and primary health care providers, we at the St Johns Medical Centre have adopted the following measures to keep you safe and healthy:

  1.  As of Monday, 23/03/2020, we advise all our patients that consultations will be done through phone calls, emails and through video calls. We are hoping to have a new video call system installed by Tuesday 24th of March. Our IT people are working on it at the moment. The reason for this is that data from Italy suggests it is best for patients not to visit their doctor because of the risk of spread of the disease.
  2. Any patient with symptoms of corona virus should call the hospital for the Community Based Assessment Centre (CBAC). They are geared to do proper assessment and tests. Those people who are not sure of their condition and those with flu like illness should ring the Healthline first. For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.
  3.  We will not see random walks in unless they call the surgery first. We will limit face to face consultations to urgent cases only. Our message to you is that vast majority of conditions will be effectively dealt without you coming to the surgery.
  4. We encourage patients who have chronic medical conditions, such as respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic renal disease, over the age of 65 years, pregnant women and patients with any other long-term medical conditions to call us for flu vaccinations.

We thank you for your cooperation and understanding. The fight against coronavirus will take some time to contain it. We all have to work together and look after each other especially the elderlies and vulnerable segment of our society. Please keep tuned to advise from the government and health authorities. You can visit Ministry of Health site for further information and instructions.