One death, five new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand

There has been one new death and five new cases of COVID-19 recorded in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health's Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay has confirmed.

The man who died was a resident at Rosewood Rest Home. He is the second resident from the rest home's hospital wing to die. The man, who was in his 60s, was considered a probable case and had "significant" underlying health conditions. Dr McElnay wasn't aware if the man's family was with him at the time.

The latest death, along with those at Burwood Hospital, brings the toll from the Rosewood rest home cluster to 10. A total of 17 people have now died from the disease in New Zealand.

"This illustrates once again the impact this disease can have on vulnerable people," Dr McElnay said.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who spoke alongside Dr McElnay at the Friday press conference, also paid his respects.

"Each death from COVID-19 is a person who was loved and whose family are dealing with grief and death in the most trying of circumstances."

The new cases are broken down as two confirmed cases and three probable cases. This brings the country's total to 1456. One of the cases is linked to overseas travel, three are linked to clusters, and the fifth is under investigation, but is possibly linked to travel.

Dr McElnay said 1095 people have recovered - an increase of 30 on Thursday. Eight people are in hospital, including one in ICU. There are 16 significant clusters, but only one new case attributed to one of those clusters.

Another new record of daily tests was set on Thursday: 6961. That takes the total to 108,238. A more targeted testing plan is being developed, possibly including testing some workplaces.

On Thursday, only three cases of the virus were confirmed in the country. However despite that, the total recorded in New Zealand didn't increase.

This is because three previously confirmed cases who arrived back in New Zealand recently after being on the COVID-19-infected Greg Mortimer ship have been reclassified as under investigation.

The Ministry of Health understands these individuals were tested for the virus in Uruguay, and is checking to see if Uruguay reported their results to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is to prevent double-counting by the WHO. 

Two new deaths were also confirmed on Thursday; one from the Rosewood Rest Home cluster - although not part of the group transferred from there to Burwood Hospital - and one who has been in a critical condition in Dunedin Hospital for weeks.

On Monday evening, New Zealand will move to alert level 3. This decision came after the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield expressed confidence that the country had no undetected widespread community transmission. 

Alert level 3 is less restrictive than the lockdown - with people able to extend their bubbles in some cases and more businesses reopening - but it still requires Kiwis to stay home unless they need to leave the house.

Robertson said, until Monday, we remain under lockdown and that people should not become complacent, especially over the long ANZAC weekend.

Work remains underway to boost the country's ability to contact trace, something experts have suggested will be pivotal to New Zealand's chances of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This includes developing a phone application and through a Government investment in public health units.

What we know about the coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) was first notified of cases of the virus SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) in Wuhan, China on December 31. It was identified as a coronavirus on January 7 and can spread via human-to-human transmission. It causes the coronavirus COVID-19 illness.

The virus is primarily spread through droplets in the air after someone sneezes or coughs, however, it can also be contracted by touching surfaces where the illness is present. The length of time the virus stays alive on surfaces isn't fully understood, but some studies have suggested that on some materials it could be for days.

"Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death," the WHO says.

"Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing."

There is currently no vaccine for the sickness.