Coronavirus: New research shows lockdown could eliminate COVID-19

New Zealand's alert level 4 measures are already having a "significant effect" on the country's COVID-19 case numbers, new research shows.

Modelling released on Thursday by Te Punaha Matatini shows rapid case isolation, tracing, and testing, as well as control, means New Zealand has an opportunity to contain and eliminate COVID-19.

The research shows had lockdown measures not been implemented, about 200 cases could have been reported on Thursday. Instead, there were only 29.

"We also find that fast case isolation, whether as a result of contact tracing, rapid testing, or otherwise, can lead to containment and possibly even elimination, when combined with strong population-wide controls," the research says.

"Slow case isolation can also lead to containment, but only as long as strong population-wide controls remain in place. It is unlikely to lead to elimination."

Previous modelling showed up to 80,000 New Zealanders could die from COVID-19 if strict measures such as the lockdown weren't in place.

"An optimistic scenario with strong effective controls and rapid case isolation can contain the outbreak at the end of the four week level 4 period," the latest research says.

The worst-case scenario is a further outbreak when lockdown controls are relaxed. A longer period of lockdown control would decrease or delay any risk of future outbreaks, the research says.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said recent case numbers have been encouraging. Just 29 new cases were announced in New Zealand on Thursday and 50 on Wednesday.

"This is the fourth day in a row where we've seen a drop day on day, so we're expecting the numbers to continue to stay low," he told reporters.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said modelling on the eve of the lockdown showed New Zealand was on a similar trajectory to Italy or Spain. That modelling showed New Zealand could have 10,000 cases by now if no lockdown measures were implemented.

"Instead of the horrific scenes we have seen abroad, we are at 1239 cases," Ardern said.