Dentists and doctors reopen with new safety precautions under Alert Level 2

The nationwide move to Covid-19 Alert Level 2 brings with it access to health services that were largely off-limits to the public during Level 3 and 4 lockdowns.

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But health professionals say some things will be a little different as we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Source: 1 NEWS

Visits to the doctor and dentist, elective surgery and a range of services like blood tests, scans and screening are now opening up with a host of precautions to keep people safe.

Thirteen-year-old Emily Powell noticed the changes when she turned up for a dental appointment in Hamilton this morning.

"I had to use hand sanitiser and they took my temperature, and they recorded all those details down," she told 1 NEWS.

Her dentist's waiting room also has fewer seats to enable social distancing and cleaning.

Katie Ayers, president of the NZ Dental Association, says all practices nationwide are adhering to new guidelines to reduce the risk of infection from Covid-19. 

She says dentists are pleased to be open and able to treat patients.

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Seven long weeks of Covid-19 lockdown ended today as the nation entered Alert Level 2. Source: 1 NEWS

"I've got two children coming today that've had fractured teeth for most of lockdown," Ms Ayers says. 

"So I'm really thrilled to be able to put them back together and get them off to school."

Hospitals around the country are also gearing for a gradual return to elective surgery, scans and screening programmes.  

Tens of thousands of appointments were postponed during the six weeks New Zealand was in lockdown.

"That means we are going to offer more surgery, elective surgery and more outpatient clinics," says Dr Margaret Wilsher, chief medical officer at Auckland's District Health Board.

"And we are going to offer more diagnostics, but it might be different.  

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It ends seven long weeks of lockdown in Alert Levels 3 and 4. Source: 1 NEWS

"We're using tele-medicine...We're making more diagnostics available to general practice so patients don't have to travel around the community."

The Royal New Zealand College of GPs is reassuring patients that doctor's visits are safe and protocols are in place to ensure patient safety. 

However, the organisation's medical director, Dr Bryan Betty, says online appointments will remain on offer to any patients who don't want a face-to-face consultation.

"In the last one to two weeks we've seen a definite upswing in terms of patients contacting surgeries," Dr Betty says. 

"And we expect that to continue today and the demand to increase."

One area of particular concern to GPs is an increase in cases of anxiety and depression during lockdown.  

Dr Betty says family doctors should be the first port of call for patients needing support with mental health.

Medical services are in catch-up mode and reassuring the public they are doing everything possible to treat everyone who needs help in what remain extremely uncertain times.