Coronavirus: First New Zealand death recorded

New Zealand has recorded its first death from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. 

The case was reported by health officials on Sunday afternoon.

She was a West Coast woman in her 70s.

She was initially suspected to be suffering influenza. Twenty-one staff members were potentially exposed before she tested positive for COVID-19 and extra precautions were taken. None are yet showing symptoms. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the person was well-known to the facility and its staff, and her underlying health conditions meant she wasn't initially treated as a suspected COVID-19 case.

New Zealand also has 63 new cases of coronavirus COVID-19. Fifty-six previous patients have recovered, and nine remain in hospital. 

There have been 514 confirmed cases to date. Sunday's number of new cases is lower than that recorded the past two days, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wouldn't be drawn on whether that would be a trend.

"None of us are willing to draw any conclusions at this early stage. There is a considerable lag time in any of our results... we all need to be vigilant. No one can be complacent or draw any conclusions just yet."

Dr Bloomfield also said Māori make up only 4 percent of confirmed cases so far, and Pacific Islanders 2.3 percent.

New Zealand is on its fourth day of a nationwide lockdown. It came into effect on Wednesday night to limit people's exposure to SARS-CoV-2, which has infected more than 660,000 people globally - killing more than 30,000.

Although Kiwis are required to stay indoors and all non-essential businesses have been closed, authorities have warned New Zealand will continue to see a rise in the number of cases for at least another week. 

The aim is to slow the virus' spread to avoid health facilities being overwhelmed, and hopefully eliminate it from our shores altogether, by denying it new hosts. 

Ardern has said the country could have thousands of infected individuals by then.

"I know the thoughts of everyone around the country are with the family of this person," she said on Sunday.

"Today's death is a reminder of the fight that we have on our hands," she added, urging people to stay at home to "break the chain and save lives".

She also slammed "bullying" online of those who've caught the virus.

"There are 514 people who are or have battled this illness, and they deserve our support."

She said there was ongoing frustration with people not following isolation protocols, but the "majority" were cooperating.

More than 2000 calls have been made to 111 reporting restriction breaches, including businesses operating that shouldn't be. Ardern said a new online form had been set up at to ease the pressure from emergency services.

Ardern said since border restrictions were put in place, has been a dramatic fall in the number of people arriving at the border. Roughly 840 arrived back in NZ on Saturday, primarily from Australia and Pacific, and only 300 on Sunday. People who are symptomatic or with no clear self-isolation plan are being quarantined.