What is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)?
Recently, an outbreak of a new coronavirus disease now called COVID-19 (sometimes called novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV) was identified. Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which cause illnesses such as the common cold. The most recent diseases caused by coronaviruses include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as influenza and do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. Symptoms include:
- sore throat
- difficulty breathing.
Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.
If you have these symptoms and have recently been overseas or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19, please contact COVID-19 Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or General Healthline 0800 611 116 or your doctor for advice.
How does COVID-19 spread?
Like the flu, COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. The scientific evidence confirms that COVID-19 is spread by droplets. This means that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they may generate droplets containing the virus. These droplets are too large to stay in the air for long, so they quickly settle on surrounding surfaces.
Droplet-spread diseases can be spread by:
- coughing and sneezing
- close personal contact
- contact with an object or surface with viral particles on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
That’s why it’s really important to practice good hygiene, regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands and practice good cough etiquette.
Slowing down the rate of further cases and an epidemic can be critical. The link below shows the impact of quarantine and restrictions:
What is meant by New Zealand COVID-19 alert levels?
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern has announced New Zealand COVID-19 alert levels. These new alert levels specify the public health and social measures to be taken.
There are four levels:
- Level 1 – Prepare – Disease is contained
- Level 2 – Reduce – Disease is contained, but risks of community transmission growing
- Level 3 – Restrict – Heightened risk that disease is not contained
- Level 4 – Eliminate – Likely that disease is not contained
The measures may be updated on the basis of new scientific knowledge about COVID-19 or information about the effectiveness of intervention measures in New Zealand and elsewhere.
We can move up or down the alert levels and New Zealand is currently at alert level 4.
At all levels, health services, emergency services, utilities and goods transport, and other essential services, operations and staff are expected to remain up and running.
As PowerNet is classed as a lifeline utility some essential work can continue. Your leader will advise you if you are required to come into work or if you are able to work from home.
Alert level 4 means you and your family will need to stay at home unless you are required to come in to work or you need essential supplies such as groceries, medicines, medical visits, banking, hospital care etc.
Other services such as service stations, waste management, mail and courier delivery are classed as essential services and for more information about please click here.
What if I need to go into the office or Depot when I’m directed to self-isolate during the Governments alert system?
You will have received a letter explaining that you are part of a lifeline utility and therefore have permission to travel for work purposes. You must carry this letter with you when travelling. You can only come into the office or Depot to pick up the necessary resources to do your job. Your leader may on occasion give you permission to work at the office or Depot. This is only granted in exceptional circumstances and permission must be sought prior to going in.
Prevention – how to protect yourself and others
You can take some simple steps to help stop the spread of diseases like COVID-19:
- Take note of the Government alert level 4 requirement to Stay at home
- Avoid close contact (within 1 metre) with people with cold or flu-like illnesses.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing.
- Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and dry them thoroughly:
- before eating or handling food
- after using the toilet
- after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
- after caring for sick people.
At Alert level 4 no travel is allowed. You may be able to travel between regions as an essential service but check with your leader first.
Can I go to school or work?
At alert level 4 all school and non-essential businesses are closed.
Where can I get further information about COVID-19?
Up-to-date information is available at following Ministry of Health website COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).
PowerNet will issue regular updates should the situation change.
What does self-isolation mean?
Self-isolation is the Ministry of Health recommendation to prevent or contain a pandemic outbreak by quarantining yourself at home for 14 days. In regard to the COVID-19 virus the current situation is that all travellers arriving in New Zealand (New Zealanders included) since 11.59am Friday 27 March 2020 must register with Healthline (by phoning 0800 358 5453) and self-isolate for a 14 day period.
There is important information on the link below which is regularly updated. Please refer to the link and if you have any questions, please contact your leader or the COVID-19 Manager
If you have been exposed, it may take up to two weeks for symptoms to present. To keep yourself and others safe, you should isolate yourself from other people for 14 days from the time you left or any overseas countries except some Pacific Island countries. This list is being updated regularly.
If you have not been in contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19, your risk of being infected is very low.
Currently any staff who have arrived in NZ before 11.59pm 27 March 2020 are required to self-isolate for a 14 day period. However, if the pandemic were to escalate there will be additional situations which may require self-isolation, such as if you or a family member are exhibiting symptoms. If we reach this stage, we will be asking staff to discuss with their leader in the first instance if they are wanting to self-isolate. The escalation point being to the COVID-19 Manager.
What happens if my family are sick and I need to care for them. What leave is it?
Domestic leave is treated as sick leave under the leave policy.