Covid 19 coronavirus: Dr Bloomfield on vaccines, lockdown & his alternative career choice

From the importance of vaccines to how he likes his cup of tea, the director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield faced questions from associate health minister and MP for Tāmaki Makaurau Peeni Henare during a Facebook Live event tonight.

Henare first asked the man he said some call “superman”, what the health rationale is behind a lockdown.

“The key thing is to protect the community. The reason we have an elimination strategy is that’s the best way to protect Aotearoa New Zealand, to protect our people,” Bloomfield said.

“If you compare us to countries around the world, and I was doing the numbers a few days ago, if we were the UK, the equivalent is we would’ve had 10,000 deaths by now and 20,000 cases. Clearly we have gone down a different route.”

He said regarding the latest lockdown, the approach has been to not take any chances.

Rangatahi 'have got a major role'

Henare asked what words of encouragement he had for rangatahi, given the latest case has involved lots of young people.

Bloomfield gave a shout out to all the rangatahi, especially those in the Papatoetoe High School community, who responded “so fantastically”.

“The vast majority of them got a test when they were asked, not just once, but twice. They supported each other. Their whānau were fantastic.”

He said rangatahi don’t always show symptoms like others, so reminded them to be aware of muscle aches, fatigue, fever and to get tested if they notice such symptoms.

“They have got a major role in protecting our kaumātua and kuia,” he said.

Vaccines

On the topic of the safety of the vaccine, Bloomfield said Medsafe had done all the research and looked at all evidence around the vaccines before approval to the Pfizer BionNTech.

He said New Zealand doesn’t “outsource it’s approval” of vaccines to other countries and ensures via Medsafe they are safe in Aotearoa New Zealand.

He said everyone who has a vaccine is followed up.

“I’m feeling really confident about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to having the vaccine, I’ll be lining up when it’s my turn.”

Māori engagement

When asked about how the Ministry of Health is to ensure Māori have all the information they need to make informed decisions about the vaccine, Bloomfield said there has been Maori input “right from the start”.

He said the very first nurses to be trained and conducting vaccines were from Māori providers.

He said the agency connects with iwi leaders and other Māori leaders to make sure they have the information and are able to signpost whānau to the right information.

Henare said it’s important people share information they get with whānau.

“If there is one thing we know, probably more effective to knock on nanny’s door than send her an email,” Henare said.

“That way you’re able to share that information that is important to our whānau.”

Bloomfield on his second career choice

Shifting to more light-hearted questions, Henare asked Bloomfield what job he’d do if he wasn’t head of the Ministry of Health.

“I’d be doing the weather reports on TV.”

And asked if he has his teabag in or out, Bloomfield said it opted for it out.

When Henare asked who he admires most in his workplace, he said the people who unload the dishwasher every day.

“They come in early in the morning or they stay late at night. That’s the greatest example of service in the workplace.”

No new community cases

Earlier today Bloomfield fronted media at a Covid-19 update, where he announced the nation had gone a fourth day with no new cases in the community.

There were six new cases in managed isolation while two people from managed isolation facilities had been moved to Auckland hospitals, both in stable condition.

Bloomfield said he was confident of a “sharp perimeter” around the current outbreak – but that now was not the time to reassess alert levels.

Kiwis will have to wait until tomorrow to hear if alert levels will drop this weekend.

“Cabinet is meeting tomorrow on that,” he said.

“What we will be looking for over the next 24 to 48 hours is continuing [to ensure] our close contacts remain in isolation,” Bloomfield said at the media briefing.

He also wanted to see the test results of the tail end of the gym contacts and another day of no new community cases ahead of the Cabinet discussions. “All of this will give us confidence there is no ongoing transmission.

“The priority is to make sure we have tied up all loose ends from the college and casual-plus contacts from the earlier Kmart exposure, MIT and the gym last week.”


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