New Zealand could 'immediately' triple its intensive care facilities if needed, say health officials

New Zealand's health system is gearing up to tackle the coronavirus pandemic with health officials saying the number of intensive care facilities could triple if necessary.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, told media on Monday New Zealand should expect to see more cases - but our hospitals are prepared.

"We have stood up a team here in the Ministry that is able to supplement our public health units. It can manage up to 50 new cases a day in addition to the public health capacity and can scale up if needed." 

He says New Zealand currently has 180 intensive care unit beds but this could triple if needed.

"We could triple the number of places where people who require ventilation could be looked after in our hospitals, both private and public," Bloomfield said.

"The idea is not just to be prepared but to complement our measures we're putting in place to reduce the risk of that worst case scenario and we're trying to head that off completely."

New Zealand's positive test results are "relatively low" in comparison to other countries and Bloomfield says the Ministry of Health intends to keep it that way.

"Every action we have taken to date is designed to avoid a worst case scenario so we will keep doing that."

On Monday afternoon the Government announced New Zealand will enter Level 3 of the alert system - meaning all bars, cafes, restaurants and takeaway services will close.

In 48 hours the country will enter Level 4 - near total lockdown. All non-essential business and schools will close and transport will close to everyone who is not an essential service. 

People must work from home and reduce all contact with others. 

"We need to remain in Level 4 as a nation but then we may be at a period where some regions can be lifted out," Ardern told media on Monday afternoon.

"But compliance is key."