Coronavirus: 50 new COVID-19 cases in New Zealand

The number of confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 has risen by 50, officials announced on Wednesday.

There were 47 confirmed and three probable cases in the past 24 hours.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield made the announcement at 1pm.

New Zealand now has 205 cases, he said. The majority of cases are still connected to overseas travel, however there are four confirmed cases and several suspected cases caused by community transmission.

Five of the cases have been linked to Auckland's Marist College for girls.

"All students and staff are being managed as close contacts.  That means they are expected to be in monitored self-quarantine for the next 14 days or 14 days since last contact with each other," Dr Bloomfield said.

"Staff and students should not congregate with anyone outside their home, and keep their physical distance from those within their household for this period.

"There are a number of staff members who are being tested or are about to be tested, as they have symptoms."

Cases are being actively followed up by Ministry of Health staff, and Dr Bloomfield urged people to follow the quarantine rules.

Twenty-two people have recovered after being infected. Six people remain in hospital in a stable condition - three in Wellington hospital, one in Rotorua and two in Waikato. Three patients were discharged on Tuesday.

Dr Bloomfield warned the number of cases would continue to increase for the next 10 days from people infected before today.  

"The numbers will continue to increase before they turn around.  That turnaround will happen if we all do what is asked of us," he said.

"This will require all our efforts and I strongly urge all New Zealanders to play their part."

New Zealand going into lockdown

From Wednesday night, New Zealand will be in lockdown for at least four weeks in an attempt to minimise the spread of the virus, which has infected over 150 people in New Zealand.

The lockdown means people must remain indoors, non-essential businesses will close, schools are shut, and travel is severely limited.

"If everyone reduces down their contacts, stays at home, that's one less person that's at risk of picking it up who's less likely to pass it on to three other people and then three other people and then three other people - which is roughly the transmission rate," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"So everyone needs to play their part, and please do. It's not just about your life, it's about others'."

What we know about coronavirus:

Coronavirus is primarily spread through droplets in the air after someone sneezes or coughs. However, it can also be contracted by touching surfaces where the illness is present, according to the World Health Organization. The length of time the virus stays alive on surfaces is unknown at this stage, but some viruses can remain active for days. 

The WHO was first informed of cases of the virus in Wuhan on December 31. It was identified as a coronavirus on January 7 and can spread through human-to-human transmission. 

"Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death," the WHO says.

"Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing."

There is currently no vaccine for the sickness.

How can I protect myself? 

  • avoid touching the mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands
  • washing your hands before eating
  • carrying a hand sanitiser at all times
  • being particularly mindful of touching your face after using public transport or going to the airport
  • carry tissues at all times to cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing (then dispose of it)
  • not eating shared or communal food
  • avoiding shaking hands, kissing cheeks
  • regularly cleaning and sanitise commonly used surfaces and items, such as phones and keys
  • avoiding close contact with people suffering from or showing symptoms of acute respiratory infection
  • seeking medical attention if you feel unwell.

A full explainer on protecting yourself from coronavirus can be found here