Covid-19: Hospital visitors in Auckland infecting patients with virus

Visitors to Auckland’s North Shore Hospital have been infecting patients with Covid-19, the Ministry of Health says.

On Monday, the ministry said there had been an increase in the number of Covid-positive patients across Waitematā district health board (North Shore and Waitākere hospitals in Auckland) – the country’s largest health district – including an outbreak at a community site, which affected 30 patients.

Contact tracing showed at least five confirmed Covid-19 cases at North Shore Hospital were “very likely” to have been passed on to patients by visitors, a Waitematā district spokesperson said.

Patients then transmitted the virus to other patients in their room or ward.

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It comes as Aotearoa is seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases across the board, while hospitals are already grappling with “rapidly” increasing influenza cases.

The seven-day rolling average of community cases reported on Monday was 7046. This is up from 5132 new reported cases last Monday, and 4939 cases the Monday prior.

Last Monday, there were 383 people in hospital with Covid-19 – this had jumped to 487 this Monday.

Of these, Waitematā DHB had the highest number of Covid-positive patients by far, with 114. Canterbury DHB had the second-highest number of patients with Covid-19 (57), less than half that in hospital in west and north Auckland.

The Ministry of Health says there is evidence visitors to North Shore Hospital are infecting patients with Covid-19, as community cases creep up overall.

The Omicron BA.5 subvariant is starting to “snowball” in New Zealand, and modellers and scientists expect it will overtake BA.2 as the dominant strain by the end of July.

Despite cases creeping up, there was no change to the traffic light settings last week.

At the time, Covid-19 Response Minister Ayesha Verrall said moving back to red was “unnecessary at the moment”, and that we could continue to manage the virus at orange.

“We know how important it is for people in our care to be able to see their loved ones,” the Waitematā spokesperson said.

“However, we are urging anyone who is unwell or has flu-like symptoms to stay away from hospitals and healthcare facilities to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 and other illnesses amongst patients and staff.”

People who were well and wished to visit whānau were reminded to respect hospital rules by wearing an approved mask, regularly sanitising their hands, following sneeze and cough etiquette, and maintaining physical distancing.