Coronavirus: Ministry of Health wants rate of cases to decline before moving to alert level 3

The Ministry of Health says it will be looking closely at the rate of decline in COVID-19 cases before a decision is made to move New Zealand back to alert level 3.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed on Monday he is "encouraged" by the levelling off of cases, but he will be watching the data on a day-by-day basis and can't predict when the alert level change will happen.

"What we will be looking at in terms of forming a decision by the Government on moving from level 4 to level 3 is not just the number of tests but the number of positive tests and the direction of travel," he said.

"We can see we've had several data points now that are quite comfortably showing it's levelling off at this point. What we will be wanting is to see that rate actually start declining, the rate of new cases."

There were 67 new COVID-19 cases announced on Monday, bringing the country's total to 1106. Of the new cases, 39 of these were confirmed and 28 were probable cases.

On Saturday and Sunday, there were 82 and 89 cases announced respectively. And last week, the daily new cases announced each day ranged from 58 to 89.

Dr Bloomfield said the number of new daily cases had been maintained even with an increase in testing.

"I think the amount of testing we're doing and the rate at which we're doing it compared with other countries as to where they were is right up there, and we will continue to test with that broader case definition... There's no hindrance to the right people being tested."

He also has fears with winter coming up and wants to contain COVID-19 before the cold weather hits.

"We would expect - as we do with other respiratory illnesses - to see more of them happening in winter. And that's why we want to get down to a lower level [of cases] and keep it at a lower level."

He said the main goal is to stamp the virus out before winter arrives.