'It's like a war' - New Zealand medical workers gearing up for influx of coronavirus patients

With extra supplies being organised and staff gearing up for an influx of people infected with coronavirus, New Zealand is prepared, Waikato Hospital's Dr John Bonning says.

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Specialist emergency medicine physician Dr John Bonning talked about how New Zealand has geared up for Covid-19. Source: Breakfast

"It's like a war, we just need to pull together to beat this and we can do it as a nation," the specialist emergency medicine physician told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

"We are trained for this, this is exactly what we train for. We train for disasters, we train to deal with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and something like this so it's not kind of a big surprise for us, but we're all a bit nervous, anxious about the wave that's coming and how we're going to deal with it and that our colleagues might get sick and some might even die."

Yesterday, the number of coronavirus cases in New Zealand increased by 78 during the country's first day in lockdown. It brings the country's total number of cases, both confirmed and probable, to 283.

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The 73 confirmed and five new probable cases brings the nation’s total Covid-19 cases to 283. Source: 1 NEWS

However, due to the lag in people being infected and feeling ill, the number is expected to go up.

Dr Bonning, who is also the president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and the chairman for the Council of Medical Colleges in New Zealand, said measures were being taken to make sure staff were safe and space was ready for the expected number of cases to rise.

"It is amazing how the stocks have been pulled out across both countries (NZ and Australia) which I represent," he said, adding departments had been redesigned and people had been repurposed.

Dr Bonning said an announcement is expected today from the Ministry of Health on its availability of masks, face visors and protective gowns, as well as ventilators.

"It's expected that 20 per cent of people who'll get this will get quite ill and require hospitalisation, and about five per cent will get seriously ill and those are the ones that we're planning for and looking for things like ventilators."

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The Police Commissioner said anyone who arrives with symptoms will be quarantined. Source: 1 NEWS

However, he added bed spaces and intensive care spaces was "a real issue".

"The health service, you could say, was in some ways at capacity already, but having said that, there has been a reduction in demand and a bit of a change and we're not doing a lot of the elective stuff.

"It's really focusing that there can only be Covid business done by hospitals at the moment, so yes there still will be some business as usual come in but it has reduced."

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Ambulance staff adjusting operation to make sure patients and staff are kept safe. Source: Seven Sharp

But staff safety was the biggest priority, Dr Bonning said.

"We've got a phrase that we used that there is no patient emergency that is more important than the safety of our health care workforce, and that might sound a little bit harsh but in fact we've got guidelines around if somebody collapses and needs CPR, we need to make sure that the people there that are going to resuscitate those people in hospital are fully protected with personal protective equipment.

"Our people, I'm amazed at how they are lifting themselves into leadership positions and really organising themselves. It's amazing it takes a crisis like this to see people say 'right, you know, let's do this'."

But Dr Bonning called on all New Zealanders to use and trust the Government's information about Covid-19.

"We all need to play our part," he said.

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The global death toll is more than 21,000 with Italy and Spain to hardest hit countries. Source: Breakfast