Coronavirus: 6 new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, one death

There has been one new death and six additional cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed on Wednesday.

The death was a woman in her 80s from the Rosewood Rest Home cluster in Christchurch, bringing New Zealand's death toll to 14. The woman was considered a probable case and had an underlying health condition.

All six new cases are confirmed. Three are associated with overseas travel and are linked to the Greg Mortimer Cruise Ship. The other three are connected to New Zealand's existing clusters. The country's overall total of confirmed and probable cases now stands at 1451. 

"We are increasingly confident there is not undetected COVID-19 out in our communities - that is the most important protection for children, teachers and New Zealanders," Dr Bloomfield said. "This is the situation we want to be in and want to stay in."

There are still 16 significant clusters of COVID-19 nationwide. Dr Bloomfield confirmed there are two cases where the source of infection remains unknown and they are continuing to be investigated.

As of Wednesday, 1036 people have recovered from the virus. Eleven people are in hospital, two of which are in the ICU. Both are in a stable condition.

Labs processed 5289 tests on Tuesday, bringing the overall number of tests processed to 94,797.

Dr Bloomfield said selected groups are to be tested around the country, including health staff and essential workers, as part of ongoing surveillance. 

He confirmed that widespread testing, general health checks and flu vaccinations will be conducted in order to reach Maori and Pacific communities in both Northland and Taranaki. 

The current Section 70 health notice has been extended, the expiry date initially being set for midnight on Wednesday. One change has been made to one of the notices. Section 70(1)(m) currently orders non-essential workplaces to close. As indicated by the Prime Minister, businesses can work ahead of level 3 "carefully" to prepare their workplaces. The new notice reflects this.

Dr Bloomfield noted that the Ministry of Health is currently working on a visitor policy for hospitalised patients during alert level 3.

Auckland City Rail Link construction will restart post-lockdown with 200 workers. The number of people on-site will increase to 400 workers over the week following the lifting of lockdown.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says mandatory quarantining will continue during the level 3 response. There are currently 2403 people in Government-provided facilities such as hotels and 97, who are being tested or are symptomatic, are in quarantine. The remainder are in isolation.

She reiterated that New Zealand is still under alert level 4 and the protocols must continue to be followed. She acknowledged that "99.9 percent of New Zealanders" are doing the right thing, but those who continue to breach the rules risk undoing our progress. 

"There are still some who are choosing to flout the rules - as of 6pm yesterday, there have been 4128 breaches of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act and Health Act, 433 prosecutions, 3580 warnings and 115 youth referrals. There have been more than 5600 reassurance patrols around businesses and neighbourhoods in the last two days," Ardern confirmed.

Ardern also reiterated that anyone who tests positive or is symptomatic must isolate, regardless of profession or location, while discussing the 35 Air New Zealand flight attendants who have contracted the virus.

"There is no exemption for anyone symptomatic who tests positively - you are absolutely olidged to isolate if you are symptomatic or test positive."

Regarding reports of calls for an inquiry into the initial outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, China, Ardern said New Zealand would be open to ensuring we have "the best response as a globe" in terms of a future pandemic, and that investigating the origin of the outbreak would be "common sense".

"We want to make sure we learn from what has been a global pandemic that has shaken the world... we need to learn from it. New Zealand would be open to making sure we have the best response, as a globe, we possibly could... if this happened again in the future."

An announcement regarding hunting is expected to be made on Thursday. Ardern said Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage is in direct discussions with Fish and Game. Talks are ongoing around ensuring as many people can participate in the season at the appropriate time.