Omicron Phase 3 key messages for whare with whānau affected by cancer
We understand that the re-emergence of COVID-19 in the community is causing additional stress for those affected by cancer, so in partnership with Hei Āhuru Mōwai Māori Cancer Leadership Aotearoa we have developed this essential information kit to keep your whānau safe and well.
As predicted, the Omicron strain of Covid-19 will peak, seeing a spike in community cases, but eventually, it will subside. This information is to help you and your whānau navigate through Phase 3 of Omicron.
Remember the proverb, ‘He waka eke noa’, ‘we’re in this together’, and help is just a phone call away.
In Phase 3 only those who test positive or are household contacts will have to isolate – so our health system and supply chains are not overwhelmed.
BUT we still need to protect those with cancer from COVID-19 – as they are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 and getting very sick from it.
- Get vaccinated! And get your booster as soon as you can. If you are severely immunocompromised then ask your doctor about having an extra dose before the booster shot (this will mean four shots altogether). Vaccine info for whānau can be found at Karawhiua: Protect Communities from COVID-19
- Your whare needs to be an āhuru mōwai, a safe space. Try not to have too many people coming and going - create a whare tikanga that those visiting your whare are well and are vaccinated.
- Regular cleaning and wiping down surfaces (like kitchen benches and bathroom sinks) will kill the virus. Opening the windows or doors each day will stop the virus from hanging around in the air.
- Hygiene tikanga - washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap, using hand sanitiser regularly and coughing or sneezing into your elbow - is still important to stop the spread of COVID in your whare.
- You could think of the person with cancer as being a separate ‘bubble’ in your whare needing your protection and care. You can help by doing their shopping, collecting medicines, limiting visitors and supporting them to stay away from busy public spaces or high-risk places. If there is a separate bedroom and bathroom, or unit– this might be a good option for your whānau member with cancer.
- Everyone in your whare needs to be careful when they go out in public – so they are less likely to bring COVID-19 into the whare when they return: wear masks correctly, physically distance and scan in using the COVID-19 tracer app and wash their hands when they get home.
- It is important that you prepare your whare in case you have to isolate. This means having supplies on hand and arrangements in place for friends and whānau who can support you if needed. You can find out more about how to prepare to self-isolate at Preparing to self-isolate | Unite against COVID-19
- If whānau in your whare have been in contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, or if they have been identified as a close contact – they may want to stay away from the whare - or take extra care to give the person with cancer space when they are in the whare.
- Symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat or other cold or flu-like symptoms - no matter how mild.
- Get tested as soon as you have any symptoms. You can order free tests for pick up at Request a RAT | Ministry of Health NZ
- Keep apart from the person with cancer until you get the result.
- If you have to use shared areas – make sure they are well-ventilated and cleaned regularly. If possible both the person with COVID-19 symptoms and the person with cancer should wear masks in the whare.
- If their symptoms are getting worse - call the doctor or Healthline and they will let you know what you need to do next. If it is an emergency call 111. Hospital is the safest place to be if seriously unwell.
- If a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) was used the positive result needs to be registered online at My Covid Record | Ministry of Health NZ. This will help your whare get the care and support you need.
- The person with COVID-19 will be sent a text with a link to complete a form. In the form make sure it is noted that a person with cancer is in the whare. If the person with COVID-19 does not have access to a mobile phone, they will be contacted by a primary care, Māori, iwi or Pacific health provider.
- The person with cancer should let their cancer team know that they are a ‘household contact’ and find out what that means for their cancer treatment.
- If your whare is isolating, you can get help if you need essential supplies, like food or medicine, at Help when you are self-isolating | Unite against COVID-19
- Each region across the motu has different teams supporting those who are isolating – contact details for the different regions are available at Health care support in your region - Covid-19 Health Hub | Ministry of Health
- Make sure they let everyone involved in their COVID-19 diagnosis and isolation support know they have cancer.
- Let their cancer team know they have tested positive for COVID-19 and find out what that means for their cancer treatment. Keep the cancer team up to date with any changes - such as taking other medications or going to hospital.
- Keep taking all their cancer medicines – they will be contacted if there are any changes to their medication or how they are supposed to take it.
- There are COVID-19 medicines available for severely immunocompromised people who catch COVID-19. If you have a cancer or treatment which means you are immunocompromised - ask about these medicines, particularly if your symptoms are getting worse.
- If symptoms are getting worse - call the doctor or Healthline and they will let you know what you need to do next. If it is an emergency call 111. Hospital is the safest place to be if unwell. Generally, up to two whānau members can be kaitiaki (support) for those in hospital. This may change if there is high-risk to patients from having visitors in the cancer centre – check with the cancer team. At hospital kaitiaki will need to share their vaccination status, be screened for COVID-19 and registered for contact tracing.
- Cancer treatment is essential but there may be changes to when and how treatment is delivered to keep your whānau member safe while their body is responding to COVID-19 – their cancer team will let them know if there are any changes to their cancer treatment.
- While we navigate through Omicron, it’s ok to feel uncertain and anxious. Try to do some things that whakapiki wairua or lift your spirits through waiata (song), karakia (prayer), connecting with nature and doing the things which bring you joy. There are a range of resources available at COVID-19: Mental health and wellbeing resources | Ministry of Health NZ
Hei Āhuru Mōwai have created a resource with advice around protecting whānau with cancer during Covid-19
There's a lot of helpful information here for you to consider. Please share it with the extended whānau as we unite to combat Covid-19.
Piki te ora, Piki te kaha, Piki te maramatanga.