There are 20 new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced on Wednesday.
Six of the 20 new cases are confirmed while 14 are probable. New Zealand's overall total of confirmed and probable cases now stands at 1386. There have been no additional deaths, the country's death toll remaining at nine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she understands that 19 of the 20 new cases are linked to existing clusters. There are now 16 significant clusters nationwide, one more than Tuesday. The new cluster is in Auckland and is connected to an aged-care residential facility. A cluster constitutes 10 or more cases.
The 15th cluster discussed during Tuesday's briefing has been identified as St Margaret's Rest Home in Te Atatu, Auckland. The outbreak is not confined to the facility, with cases also outside in the community.
As of Wednesday, 728 people have recovered from the virus. Thirteen people are hospitalised, with three patients in the ICU. Two, one in North Shore Hospital and one in Dunedin Hospital, are in a critical condition.
On Tuesday, 2100 tests were processed. The total number of tests processed now stands at 66,499.
There are 115 health workers who have tested positive for the virus. Twenty-two percent of the cases are linked to overseas travel.
Dr Bloomfield acknowledged the death of a man in Invercargill, who is believed to have been infected with COVID-19, but says his cause of death is currently unconfirmed.
"We are seeking further information," he said. Dr Bloomfield noted that if the man's death is linked to COVID-19, it would mark the country's first virus-related death in the community.
Ardern confirmed that 62 individuals who identify as Pasifika have contracted COVID-19 so far, a rate which is "amongst the lowest of the ethnicities" being broken down in official reports.
20pc pay cut for PM, ministers
Ardern also announced a 20 percent pay cut for herself, Dr Bloomfield, ministers and public sector officials.
"We felt 20 percent was the right place... in many ways this was going to be an acknowledgment of what many New Zealanders are taking right now... 20 percent is an acknowledgement we can make as leaders," she said. "It's about leadership."
Dr Bloomfield says the ministry is continuing to look at evidence regarding the effectiveness of masks in public settings.
"We are continuing to look at evidence and experiences in different countries... if masks have an important role to play, we will move in that direction," he said. "We're keeping an open mind about the evidence."
Dr Bloomfield assured there are "good stocks of PPE" for the health sector and DHBs.
"Any health worker who has a concern about the [availability] or use of PPE should escalate their concerns within their organisation... the unions can support that escalation process," he said.