There are two new deaths and three new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed on Thursday.
The first death was a woman in her 60s, who had been unwell for some time. She was hospitalised at Dunedin Hospital on April 7 and had an underlying health condition.
The second death was linked to the Rosewood Rest Home cluster in Christchurch. The resident, a man in his 70s, passed away while in the rest home's hospital unit. He was not part of the group of residents receiving care at Christchurch's Burwood Hospital. He also had an underlying health condition. Although he had initially tested negative, the man was considered a probable case due to exposure and symptoms.
Two of Thursday's three new cases are confirmed and one is probable. However, there is no change in New Zealand's overall number of confirmed and probable cases, the total remaining at 1451. The ministry understands that the three cases linked to the Greg Mortimer Cruise Ship, reported on Wednesday, were tested in Uruguay. In that instance, the patients may have been reported by health officials in Uruguay to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The cases would therefore be counted under Uruguay rather than New Zealand's total. The ministry is investigating this.
As of Thursday, eight people are hospitalised and one is in the ICU. Sixteen significant clusters remain across the country. On Wednesday, 6480 tests were processed, bringing the country's total number of tests to 101,277.
Recoveries stand at 1065.
On Anzac Day, the RSA encourages New Zealanders to honour the occasion by standing together in silence at the end of driveways, by the letterbox or on the balcony, to commemorate and pay tribute to service personnel. The 'Stand at Dawn' tribute will begin at 6am.
Under alert level 3, which is effective from 11:59pm on Monday, April 27, hospitals will remain open for emergency and acute care. Some elective services, including surgery and radiology, will be provided.
In residential care facilities for the elderly, only family visits for palliative and compassionate care reasons will be considered.
GPs will remain open under level 3 as they have during lockdown, but appointments will continue to be conducted virtually as much as possible. Community pharmacies will be open and dentists will be available for urgent appointments.
Midwives will continue to work virtually where possible.
It was also announced that an additional $30 million is to be invested into Civil Defence groups, following an earlier $27 million investment.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated there is an ongoing review of protocol for specific businesses under the varying alert levels. She said that wage subsidies and tax changes are more focused on businesses struggling with short-term and immediate impacts on cash flow, but she understands specific sectors may continue to be impacted in ways other are not under level 3.
"It's a constant piece of work," she said.
Face masks, which have been made compulsory in Germany, are being encouraged by Auckland Transport for those using buses and trains under level 3. Dr Bloomfield says the Ministry of Health's advice on masks has not changed.
"At this point we're not recommending people use face masks routinely, we don't think it's an important part of our overall measures... physical distancing and maintaining the bubbles is the really critical thing," he reiterated.
"You can find very high-level specialists on both sides of the argument. If people want to wear a mask, they should, [but] they should know how to use it. But at this point we don't recommend them for routine use."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added that wearing a mask on public transport is not a substitute for social distancing. Dr Bloomfield said those who decide to wear masks must avoid frequently touching their face, an unconscious habit, particularly when re-adjusting the mask in public.
Dr Bloomfield says his team has looked back at each case recorded from April 1 and have identified seven cases, as of Wednesday, where the sources of infection are not entirely clear. Although the cases have been classified as community transmission, Dr Bloomfield says the source of a couple of the infections may never be known - but overall "we're in a very good position".
One reporter asked if New Zealand has reached a point where new case numbers will remain in the single-digits. Ardern was clear that there is "no such thing as never".
"It all comes down to our behaviour from here... keep in mind all the public health principals we have been using and practicing, such as social distancing, hand hygiene, getting a test if symptomatic... these [practices] will be with us for a long time," she said.
"We're doing everything we can to prevent the second wave of transmission, that's why we're moving slowly, cautiously and confidently through the levels of our alert system... I'm confident we should prevent New Zealand experiencing that second wave."