As COVID-19 continues to spread across the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts, the Medical Officer of Health is urging people to be extremely vigilant.
The word of caution follows a local increase of COVID-19 cases in the community and the ongoing identification of a significant number of locations of interest. Since the first local community case of COVID-19 was reported on 12 November, 220 people have tested positive across the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts.
Dr Phil Shoemack, Medical Officer of Health at Toi Te Ora Public Health, says it’s vital to understand that the risk of COVID-19 infection is everywhere. “Almost every community in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes has had one or more cases of COVID-19 in the past few weeks,” he says.
“COVID-19 is in our community and we all need to take practical steps to reduce the risk of its further spread,” says Dr Shoemack. “This means we have to assume that anyone with whom we come into contact could be infectious with the virus.”
With primary health care providers already under considerable pressure with the current cases, Dr Shoemack says it’s more important than ever to adopt measures that help reduce the risk of infection. “We should all wear a face mask in public, scan everywhere we go, regularly wash our hands, maintain physical distancing, and get tested and then stay home if we develop COVID-19 symptoms.”
Symptoms to look out for include: a new or worsening cough, sneezing, runny nose, fever, temporary loss of smell or altered sense of taste, sore throat, and shortness of breath.
Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19 says Dr Shoemack; “Make sure you get two doses of the vaccine three weeks apart, so you are fully vaccinated. Then, when it’s time, get your booster shot.”
Vaccination is currently available to everyone 12 years and older. A booster shot is available to everyone 18 years and older. At present, you can get your booster shot six months after your second shot. However, from 5 January, you will be able to get your booster jab four months after your second shot. The vaccine will also be available for children aged 5 to 11 years from January 17.
You can have a great Christmas and make the most of summer by following COVID-19 health advice, says Dr Shoemack; “Enjoy yourself and look after each other over summer. Follow the health measures and diminish the risk of becoming infected.”
Locations of interest are regularly updated on the Ministry of Health website. Check here for details and follow the health instructions provided.