Consistency Needed from DHBs Regarding Close Contacts


Exercise is hugely more important for people’s mental health since covid arrived almost two years ago, according to a major recent ExerciseNZ survey. The latest survey has shown 63 percent of people are now exercising to help with their mental health. Exercise is as effective as anti-depressants when treating mild to moderate depression, according to research. So visiting a gym makes sense, however, some district health boards are classing close contacts in gym settings while others are not following the covid rules as set by the Ministry of Health, according to ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie.

The inconsistency of the DHBs is a real concern and some of the DHBs are being lazy in making their close contact decisions.

“In one case, we had a gym that was told everyone that visited in a three-hour block was a close contact without any checking with the facility as to where the person went, and who in the facility met the threshold,” said Beddie.

“We’ve worked out that as each person need to self-isolate, that is $250,000 of lost productivity from one decision and we are about to have thousands of these a day.

“Gyms have a lot of technology to help with contact tracing, swiping cards for precise entry times and cameras in entrance areas for exit times.

“Often they already have a photo of every member on file so they can keep the privacy of the member protected while still quickly identifying who are close contacts so they can be swiftly notified. This is far more effective than a blanket approach of posting on the national covid website ‘everyone who visited should stay at home’.

“We are just asking the DHBs to follow the guidance from the MOH and work with the gyms which have the ability to identify any close contacts.

“At the moment we can only slam some DHBs for their inconsistency. We want them to work with us, we can help.”

While covid’s omicron uncertainty remains, it is clear regular physical activity and fitness centres are part of the near and long-term covid resolution. Exercise facilities provide affordable access to tangible physical and mental health benefits that combat isolation while giving people an outlet for their stress and anxiety.

Gyms that follow coronavirus mitigation strategies and strict protocols, such as enforcing masks, capacity limits, scanning in, and prompt cleaning are helping Kiwis get through the pandemic. Beddie said the team of five million is adhering to best public health practices - it's important the DHBs work with gyms to recognise what they are doing to help.

According to Beddie the government, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has repeatedly stated their commitment to improving mental health, including announcing several large planned financial investments.