The Ministry of Health has announced 78 new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand.
During a press conference on Thursday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed the 78 new cases included five probable cases, bringing New Zealand's total to 283.
Seven people have been hospitalised in a stable condition. Three patients are in Wellington Regional Hospital, two are in Nelson Hospital and one each in Waikato and Northland hospitals. No patients are in the ICU.
The majority of the 78 new cases still have a link to overseas travel, including being in the same household as someone who has returned from overseas; attending a known event; being linked to a cluster of cases or are close contacts of a confirmed case.
The Ministry of Health are currently investigating several possible clusters:
- 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.
On Wednesday, 2417 tests were processed around the country. To date, 12,683 tests have been processed nationwide.
"These are unprecedented times... we expect the number of COVID-19 cases in New Zealand to continue to increase over the coming days. I urge all New Zealanders to continue to do your bit," Dr Bloomfield said. "We're all in this together."
Commissioner of Police Mike Bush said during the update most Kiwis are complying with the rules, staying home and staying safe.
"Respect others. If we don't comply, the consequence of that is that people will die. Our job is to ensure that we keep those people safe and well," he said.
"We're approaching this by being very visible in the community... next, we'll engage with people to ensure they know what's required of them. We will take a discretionary approach in the first instance. People will be warned and challenged about whether what they're doing is essential or if they are an essential service.
"Serious breaches and prolific breaches will be prosecuted. We are stopping people as they go to work and on the streets, just to engage, in a professional, calm and friendly manner. We have had to provide some education [to New Zealanders]."
Bush confirmed that legislation, including the Health Act and the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, allows police to stop, detain and enter premises. If people obstruct or don't comply with protocols, they can be arrested.
The Police Commissioner also reiterated that New Zealanders who have returned to the country will be subject to spot checks by police within three days of their self-isolation to ensure their compliance. On Thursday morning, 360 people arrived at Auckland Airport from several flights.
Dr Bloomfield confirmed the Ministry of Health has identified close contacts at a number of public events, including a recent Wellington wedding, and has taken appropriate action. Information regarding exact locations and times people may have been at risk regarding the Ruby Princess' Hawke's Bay visit will be released soon.
Amid the lockdown, it's imperative people understood that not all cases of COVID-19 are severe - some cases may not even know they are ill. That's why all New Zealanders must act as though they have COVID-19 when it comes to their day-to-day endeavours.
New Zealand in level four lockdown
In an effort to limit New Zealander's exposure to the respiratory disease, the country went into lockdown on Wednesday night. People cannot leave their houses unless it is absolutely essential. All non-essential businesses have been closed, domestic travel has been limited and schools have been shut.
Police have increased their presence in the community during the lockdown period and on Thursday morning, Police Commissioner Mike Bush told The AM Show that officers found people still driving overnight, claiming to have no knowledge of the new rules announced on Monday. He said offenders will be arrested and detained if they repeatedly break lockdown protocols.
Prior to Thursday's new numbers, New Zealand case total stood at 205, including 16 probable cases. Twenty-two people have recovered from the illness. The cases are spread nationwide, although the majority are in Auckland.
Up until Monday, New Zealand had no confirmed cases of community transmission, with all patients having links to known cases. They may have directly travelled overseas, had family who had been overseas, be linked to a cluster or have contracted the illness within the family. However, there are now at least four cases of community transmission in the country.
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
- wash your hands before eating
- carry a hand sanitiser at all times
- be 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)
- do not eat shared or communal food
- avoid shaking hands, kissing cheeks
- regularly clean and sanitise commonly used surfaces and items, such as phones and keys
- avoid close contact with people suffering from or showing symptoms of acute respiratory infection
- seek 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.