Report from New Zealand
1. How has COVID-19 and national measures to control it affected routine and emergency neurology service delivery in your country? How have you adapted to deal with the impact?
New Zealand implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. We entered a ‘level 4’ lockdown meaning only essential workers could travel to work and only essential business could remain open. This lockdown effectively lasted for approximately 45 days. All in-person neurology clinics (acute and general) were closed. Acute referrals were dealt with by phone advice and general outpatients were phoned for their consultations. We did see a marked downturn in referrals with many patients choosing not to see their GP or attend the emergency departments over this time period. Since the lifting of restrictions (13th May) we have essentially been back to business as usual
2. Have you seen many people whom you were concerned had neurological complications of COVID19 infection? What are the most common neurological manifestations of COVID19 in your region?
Due to the extreme rarity of COVID cases in our country, we have only seen one person with COVID related neurological sequalae. He presented with an acute opsoclonus syndrome which resolved over his inpatient stay.
3. What are your main concerns for the future in regard to COVID19? What do you think are the key measures and contingency plans necessary to ensure high quality care for people living with neurological diseases during this pandemic?
My main concern is the outbreak of COVID in New Zealand prior to an effective vaccine. As we largely eliminated the virus early on, it has not yet had a chance to cause significant morbidity and mortality on those most at risk and therefore we have not seen a strain on a healthcare system. The key measures and contingency plans for patients with neurological diseases mirrors that of the entire population of New Zealand. Local and national shutdowns to contain and eliminate the virus until such time as a vaccine becomes available should give patients living with neurological diseases the best opportunity to continue to receive high level care.
4. Do you have any examples of positive innovations that have arisen in your service during the pandemic?
Due to the swift return to normality, there has been little in the requirement for innovation. We briefly used telemedicine for multidisciplinary discussions and phone consultations became common but both of these have largely disappeared.