Guidelines for COVID-19 alert level 1

New Zealand is currently at alert level 2. The Prime Minister announced today that that New Zealand will move to alert level 1 at midnight tonight.

The government previously outlined the measures that will apply at COVID-19 alert level 1.

Working with the Ministry of Health, we have drafted the alert level 1 guidelines for oral health services and received NHCC permission late today to finalise the guidelines.

The alert level 1 guidelines for oral health treatment are very similar to the guidelines that applied at level 2. The reason for this is that there is still a global pandemic going on, and there remains a concern about a potential second wave and asymptomatic transmission requires heightened measures in dental practice to limit transmission under alert level 1. 

The patient risk levels and criteria (low and medium) and the PPE and room requirements remain unchanged. The use of additional measures to reduce the extent and contamination of aerosol and splatter where possible, also remain in place (dental dam, high volume evacuation and pre-procedural mouth rinse).

The changes made to the alert level 1 guidelines relate to:

  • Updates to the COVID-19 assessment questions to align with the updated Ministry COVID19 risk framework. The changes relate to close contacts of probable or positive COVID-19 patients, and those who have travelled internationally. The amended questions are:
    • Have you had contact with other people in the last 14 days who are probable or confirmed to have COVID-19?
    • Have you travelled overseas in the last 14 days, or had contact with someone else who has recently travelled overseas?

The full set of assessment questions are contained in the alert level 1 guidelines.

  • Change of terminology of suspected to probable COVID-19 patients. 
  • Physical distancing of one metre wherever possible and practical.  This includes entering and exiting multi-chair clinics.
  • The provision for teams to work in “bubbles” and to limit social interaction outside of work have been removed.
  • A new provision to provide facemasks for high risk patients, and for staff when the one metre physical distancing is not possible. This addition reflects the new WHO guidance and pending changes in the Ministry’s advice to healthcare professionals.
  • Emphasis that wearing prescription glasses alone is not considered appropriate protective eyewear, and that outer protective clothing must be made from material that does not permit blood or other potentially infectious material to reach clothes or skin underneath. Also, our earlier clarification email to practitioners on 14 May about using gowns for low risk patients has been incorporated into the guidelines. 

Andrew Gray & Marie Warner

Chair & Chief Executive