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Gisborne has its first confirmed case of Covid-19

The Ministry of Health announced today that a man has tested positive for COVID-19.

The man in his 50s had travelled to Gisborne from the United States and had been in self-isolation since returning to New Zealand. He was one of 85 of new cases confirmed in Aotearoa today.

Hauroa Tairāwhiti Medical Officer of Health Dr Osman Mansoor said the man was in quarantine at home and recovering well. Everyone he has been in contact with since his return is being followed up with but because he has been in self-isolation, the number is low. There is no evidence of community spread.

Contact tracing is already underway.

Dr Osman Mansoor said the public health team was tracking down other people who may have been exposed to the virus through a process called contact tracing.

“Health services use contact tracing to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease.

“The person with the virus is considered potentially infectious 48 hours before developing symptoms, while symptomatic, and until symptom-free for 48 hours and so we need to find anyone who may have come into contact with them during this time and help them stay well too."

Each public health unit contact tracing team could have anything between one and one-hundred people to contact for each case of COVID-19.

“With the measures New Zealand has taken these past two weeks you would expect there to be fewer contacts making the job a bit easier, Certainly in this case there are only a small number of contacts needing to be traced."

Dr Mansoor said the man learned yesterday he had tested postive for COVID-19 and the public health unit was in touch with him every day.

“He remains well enough to stay at home and has not exposed anybody apart from close contacts who are being followed up.

"We check in every day just to make sure he and his family continue to be supported. They have friends that can drop off supplies and we know they are well supported.”

Gisborne District Council Mayor Rehette Stoltz is asking people to remain calm and continue to heed the Prime Minister's words. “We urge everyone to stay home. This is not optional,” she says. “The only way we will stop the spread of the virus through our community is if we all stay home and practice social distancing to ensure that the virus has nowhere to go. Physical isolation is critical to slow down the spread of the virus. Failure to do so puts our people’s lives at risk.”

A travel crackdown has also been announced.

Road blocks to manage the movement of people throughout the region have been ordered by Gisborne District Council (GDC) civil defence and emergency management group controller Dave Wilson.

Mr Wilson was not able to say where the road blocks would be.

Mr Wilson says it is frustrating to see and hear that some people are still not taking stay at home warnings seriously.

“We are relying on the people of Tairāwhiti to slow down the spread so our health system can cope with those who do return positive tests,” says Mr Wilson. “If we can’t do this our health services will be overwhelmed. We have vulnerable people in our community, and we all have a responsibility to protect them. These are people’s aunties, uncles and grandparents. We need you to do your part to save lives.

"All non-essential services are to shut down immediately. This will be enforced by the Police. There are no exceptions! From selling fruit on the side of the road to takeaway deliveries – none of these are permitted in this COVID-19 Level 4 Alert lockdown."

An open letter to the community of Tairāwhiti from Gisborne District Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann

"As of today we now have one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Tairāwhiti region.

"This will be a shock to our community. We expected that we would need to deal with cases of COVID-19. It still doesn’t lessen the shock. It is critical, now more than ever, that we remain calm and stick to the advice of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Health. This is about saving the lives of people in our own community.

"I implore you to follow the instruction to stay home. This is no longer an issue that’s being dealt with by someone else, it’s up to each of you to stop the spread of this dangerous virus.

"Physical isolation means exactly that. Things are fast-moving and changes by the hour. My goal is to reassure you that as a council we will continue to run essential services so you can still access the necessities of life.

"If you think it’s OK to go for a surf or a mountain bike ride, think again – it’s not. If anything were to happen to you, you would endanger the lives of all those who come in contact with you.

"If you’re delivering food or essential items to kaumatua or pakeke please make sure you stick to the rule and keep a distance of two metres and that you’re meticulous about hygiene, particularly around hand washing.

"All gatherings of any size for weddings, funerals/tangi and birthdays must be cancelled. We need to ensure this is followed.

"The CDEM Group Controller Dave Wilson has ordered the setup of road blocks to manage the movement of people throughout our region. Only those in essential services or who are using those essential services will be allowed on the streets. Please ensure you’re fully cooperative.

"Again, I reiterate the importance of self-isolation – be kind, stay home, break the chain and save lives. #StayHomeNZ. If you have any questions, go to our website www.gdc.govt.nz or contact customer services on 0800 653 800."