Jacinda Ardern has issued a public reminder to New Zealanders that having sex with patients isn’t generally covered under “visiting hours,” with the country’s director general of health labelling it a “high-risk activity” given current COVID-19 outbreaks.
The announcements come after a man at Auckland Hospital filed a formal complaint about a woman allegedly having sex with another patient on his ward, amid a strict city-wide lockdown that attempts to stamp out highly infectious Delta outbreaks through enforced social distancing measures.
“Five o’clock, this young lady came in and disappeared behind the curtains and it was pretty obvious what was happening in there,” the man told New Zealand broadcaster 1News. “There was four people in the ward and it was all just a bit staggering, all very embarrassing.”
“There was a view that 'hey, don't be a spoil sport' but it was the wider COVID question that I was raising and in fact, I made a complaint to the staff on that.”
Ardern visibly squirmed as a reporter raised the incident with her and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during their daily COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, asking whether “that’s a high risk activity in the current climate.”
“I think it’s a high risk activity, potentially,” Dr Bloomfield replied, “however I don’t know any of the details about that interaction.”
Ardern followed up on his comments, noting “I would say generally, regardless of the COVID status, that kind of thing shouldn’t generally be a part of visiting hours I would’ve thought.”
The Ministry of Health released revised visitor guidelines for district health boards around the country on Thursday, in response to concerns from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) about the number of people being allowed to visit Auckland’s hospitals during the lockdown.
“Up until, I understand, a couple of days ago, there were several visitors per patient per bed. So if you put that in a four-bedded patient room context, you can have seven or eight individuals from different bubbles, mixing and mingling with patients, which is a real concern,” NZNO acting nursing and professional services manager Kate Weston told RNZ. “We cannot afford to have people unwittingly bringing COVID into the system, threatening the patients who are vulnerable.”
New Zealand has generally been effective at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and minimising the impacts of the pandemic. Throughout 2020 and parts of 2021 they were a global success story for eradicating the virus and eliminating community transmission – until cases of the Delta variant penetrated the nation’s borders from neighbouring Australia, triggering the current outbreak.
Ardern lifted the nationwide lockdown outside Auckland earlier this week.
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