Coronavirus: Testing capacity increased as case definition widened

The Ministry of Health is ramping up its testing capacity for COVID-19 following changes to the definition of a coronavirus case.

Director of Public Health at the ministry Dr Caroline McElnay confirmed that anyone with respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will now be tested.

"We do know this will result in more testing being done, which is good, and which we are also prepared for," she said on Wednesday.

The current testing capacity is 3700 tests, with an average of 1843 conducted daily over the last seven days.

"We currently have eight laboratories who are testing, and by the end of next week we will have 10 laboratories who are able to test, and that will bring up our capacity further," Dr McElnay said.

The change to testing criteria came after experts warned that strict criteria meant community transmission was likely not being regularly picked up. Community transmission, where an infected individual cannot be linked to another case, is what authorities will be watching over the next three weeks as it will largely determine if our nationwide lockdown is extended.

Cases in New Zealand

The Ministry of Health confirmed on Wednesday that New Zealand has 47 new confirmed cases and 14 probable cases of COVID-19, taking the country's total to 708 cases.

There are no new deaths and 82 cases have now recovered in total. There are 14 cases in hospital, with two of those being in intensive care units. Those two patients are stable. 

More than half of the 61 new cases had strong links to overseas travel, 30 percent had links to confirmed cases within New Zealand, while community transmission is estimated at one percent.

Dr McElnay said the lower number of new cases were "encouraging", but a jump was still expected due to the increased testing.