Saturday, December 4

Covid-19: moving towards the home insulation model as a significant growth in expected cases

People with Covid-19 will soon be asked to self-quarantine at home, rather than being taken to a managed isolation facility.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Modeling suggests that Covid-19 case numbers could overwhelm managed isolation spaces, with a worst-case scenario model predicting 5,200 cases per week, in the Auckland and Northland regions alone.

That model is based on a 90 percent vaccination rate, which those regions have not met.

Even at a fraction of those rates, quarantined hotels would be packed to the brim.

There are 583 rooms that have been designated for quarantine across the country: 420 in Auckland, 110 in Hamilton, 10 in Wellington and 43 in Christchurch.

As of Monday, 211, or just over a third of those rooms, were in use, occupied by 364 people.

For now, the system manages.

In a statement, a MIQ spokesperson said:

“MIQ is not only an important part of our border measures to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand; in community outbreaks like this one, we now also have a role to play in protecting the rest of New Zealand from the spread of Covid- 19. in the community. “

But for how long?

The model commissioned by the Ministry of Health shows that the number of cases could reach a maximum of 5,200 per week, and that peak would last up to six weeks.

That’s only in the Auckland and Northland regions.

Andrew Connolly, the ministry’s medical director, said that in those numbers, the vast majority of people will be asked to self-quarantine at home.

“Clearly, with those numbers, we wouldn’t have everyone at an MIQ facility like Jet Park,” Connolly said.

“Much of our work now is aimed at preparing for self-isolation or isolation within the community.”

The worst-case model said that more than 150 people would be hospitalized at the same time, with peaks of 43 people in the ICU.

Fortunately, those numbers wouldn’t overwhelm the healthcare system, but again, that’s just Auckland or Northland.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said home quarantine will be introduced sooner rather than later.

“We’ve done that before in our first lockdown last year, we isolate positive cases within their own homes overall,” Hipkins said.

“So we’ve done this before and we’ll see it again and I think we’ll see it again pretty soon.”

The home quarantine system requires a lot of work, mainly in regards to food delivery for people, home medical checks and daily medical checks via video of a phone call.

Hipkins said it is a necessary step to prevent MIQ spaces from being further limited for people coming to New Zealand from abroad.

“I think, like I said, soon [you will] They see us having to move to a more home isolation model for those positive cases, rather than increasingly converting our MIQ facilities to deal with domestic cases.

“The last peak we saw a couple of weeks ago, I think we reached the peak of what we could do in terms of MIQ, and I don’t think we will go beyond that.”

RNZ sought the Cabinet’s own model of where the case numbers might be as restrictions are eased and the outbreak escalates.

The request was rejected, and a spokesperson said the modeling data will be released proactively in the coming weeks.

But Hipkins said it doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that the number of cases is doubling every two weeks and will continue to rise.

“That takes you on an exponential growth curve. So I think we can all do our own math and figure out those models.

“There is no question that we are entering a period where we are likely to see quite significant growth in the number of cases.”

Hipkins said that if people strictly follow the alert level rules, the exponential growth in cases can be limited.

More details on the home quarantine are expected in the coming weeks.

Opposition in favor of home isolation

The ACT Party supports moving towards the quarantine of people at home and, in fact, would like to see it extended further.

Leader David Seymour said New Zealand needed to initiate a much more risk-based approach, “isolating people who need to be isolated, rather than entire cities.”

And he said it could be a good option for people returning home across the border, who at the moment have to fight for MIQ posts, “someone with a very low probability of having Covid who had a negative test, flew to New Zealand and went home. “

“If you have someone you can trust to stay at home, why fill an MIQ bed … and if it’s not that burdensome to isolate, people might be more willing to show up for tests, you might actually get greater suppression? of the virus, “says Seymour.

“But I think the real question is, if we can apply it to the people that we know have Covid in New Zealand, why can’t we let the people who have just arrived and probably don’t have Covid isolate themselves as well?”

Seymour cites the plan for Parliament when it resumes after the two-week recess: “Trevor Mallard, the Speaker of Parliament, just said that Members of Parliament can go from Auckland to Wellington and isolate for five days, if we can trust If politicians do, we can surely trust that honest New Zealand citizens will isolate themselves as well. “

Chris Bishop of National described it as a “sensible move,” given the likelihood of more cases in the community and MIQ’s limited capacity.

“But what is critical now is that we do it properly, effectively and that will come down to the planning that the government has undertaken; so my real concern is that there has not been comprehensive planning for this. To take place.”

The District Health Boards were asked a few weeks ago to come up with their own plans, but Bishop wondered if that should have happened sooner.

“The critical point now is that the planning has been done to make sure it is done effectively.

“So, for example, the things that should be looked at are what are the checks that the public health team will do on people who need to self-isolate at home?

“What capacity do the police have to check that? Is technology going to be used, for example, as in other countries, to make sure that people don’t leave their homes when they are asked to isolate themselves?” Bishop asked.

“All of these things should have been thought out before, my suspicion is that they are being thought out very quickly as we speak, but of course, that will present potential problems when the plans go into effect.”

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