The Ministry of Health has announced 85 new cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in New Zealand, taking the country's total to 368.
The new cases are comprised of 76 confirmed cases and nine probable cases.
Thirty-seven people have recovered from infection. Eight people are in hospital. Six are in a stable condition, while two are in a less stable condition, one of whom is in intensive care.
"The person who is in ICU is in Nelson Hospital and has been in there for some days," said Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
According to Dr Bloomfield, they were originally "not so bad" but they have deteriorated. They had "significant underlying health conditions" and are now ventilated.
Dr Bloomfield provided an update on the country's national pandemic supply of personal protective equipment. In the Ministry of Health national reserve and DHB reserves, there are 1.9 million aprons and gowns, 2.7 million pairs of gloves, 60,000 sets of eye protection. There are 18 million masks in the national store.
More than 2500 retired or non-practicing health professionals have registered to support the response. From Friday, the Ministry of Health website will allow healthcare workers to register their availability. They will then be matched with roles.
Modelling shows that the higher the level of compliance with lockdown measures, the greater the impact on reducing COVID-19 cases, Dr Bloomfield said.
This "wave" of infections should start to go down in 10 days if everybody follows the rules and guidance. Dr Bloomfield said the challenge then is to decide whether to loosen some of the lockdown protocols while stopping the number of cases then rising again.
Officials are meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss what may be the trigger to reduce New Zealand's alert level.
Most of New Zealand's cases have links to overseas travel, contracted the illness from someone in their household, attended an event with someone infected, is a close contact of a confirmed case or is linked to a cluster of cases. Several cases are being treated as community transmission.
Clusters being investigated continue to include from:
- Marist College in Auckland
- the World Hereford cattle conference in Queenstown
- a wedding in Wellington
- a trip by a Wellington group of friends to the US
- a contact with the Ruby Princess in Hawke's Bay
- a rest home in Hamilton.
The latest information was released on the second day of New Zealand's nationwide lockdown. The lockdown came into effect on Wednesday night in an effort to limit people's exposure to the respiratory illness which has infected more than 525,000 people worldwide and killed 24,000.
Although Kiwis are required to stay indoors and all non-essential businesses have been closed, authorities have warned that New Zealand will continue to see a rise in the number of people with the virus, at least for another ten days. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says we could have thousands of infected individuals.
The reason why numbers may continue to increase is that most people being tested have symptoms of COVID-19, but they may not emerge for up to 14 days after the person contracted the virus. That means someone who may have been infected prior to the lockdown may not be confirmed as infected until midway through. People are also still returning from overseas.
Modelling released on Thursday by Te Punaha Matatini indicates that without intensive isolation measures up to 80,000 Kiwis could be killed by the virus. Within 400 days, 89 percent of New Zealand's population would become infected, far exceeding the capacity of our hospitals, which are estimated to be able to handle 40,000 cases. The paper looks at two different strategies, suppression - which includes similar measures to what New Zealand has introduced - and mitigation, as a means to combat the virus
What we know about coronavirus
The World Health Organization (WHO) was first notified of cases of the virus SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) in Wuhan, China on December 31. It was identified as a coronavirus on January 7 and can spread via human-to-human transmission. It causes the coronavirus COVID-19 illness.
The virus 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. The length of time the virus stays alive on surfaces isn't fully understood, but some viruses can remain active for days.
"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.
An explainer on protecting yourself from coronavirus can be found here. Full information can also be found at Covid19.govt.nz
The Ministry of Health is reminding the public to get in touch with Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if they have symptoms or concerns.