Coronavirus: 14 more cases confirmed in NZ, total reaches 66

Health officials have announced another 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, bringing the total to 66 with four probable cases.

The new cases are in Auckland (5), Northland (1), Christchurch (1), New Plymouth (2), Waikato (3 including 1 in Hamilton), Tauranga (1) and Dunedin (1).

Eleven of the new cases have a history of international travel.

All cases are in self-isolation with close contacts being identified and monitored.

Detailed information about the 66 cases including their flight numbers 

Two of the new cases were at the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown in early March, which had New Zealand and international delegates.

Anyone who was at that conference is being told to self-isolate.

"Our public health team is following up with delegates to that conference, which was held from March 9-13. Four attendees - including two New Zealanders - have tested positive for COVID-19," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Sunday.

The other two who tested positive are from Uruguay and Australia.

The three people who tested postive in the last 24 hours but don't have overseas travel links include the two Kiwis who attended the conference. The third person is a contact of a confirmed case. These cases are not classified as community transmission, Dr Bloomfield said.

But community transmission still can not be ruled out for two cases announced on Saturday.

"Further investigations of these two cases have still not identified a firm link to overseas travel," Dr Bloomfield said.

"As we investigate these cases further, including close contact-tracing, this increases our understanding of what the infection pathway may have been."

Just over 1200 lab tests were carried out on Saturday around the country, bringing the total to over 6000.

New Zealand's national alert level remains at level two.

No patients are in intensive care at the moment.

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.  

The Ministry of Health is reminding the public to get in touch with Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if they have symptoms or concerns.