Jacinda Ardern lashes out at people saying elderly with COVID-19 were going to die anyway

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has lashed out at people who say that those dying from COVID-19 were going to die anyway because they were old.

So far six of New Zealand's nine coronavirus-related deaths were Rosewood Rest Home and Hospital residents and there have been five clusters at aged care facilities so far.

But when asked about suggestions the lockdown should be eased because the virus kills and will kill mostly vulnerable and elderly Kiwis, Ardern's response was firm.  

"Firstly, try telling that to someone who has lost a loved one. In fact that's probably the only thing I'll say to that."

Auckland University epidemiologist Dr Simon Thornley says the current alert level 4 lockdown is an overreaction that does not match the threat posed by the virus as elderly people die every year during flu season.

"We've seen elderly frail people have severe effects from the virus, and that's what we believe is the real threat - overwhelming hospitals and spreading in rest homes which is what we have seen."

But the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says overseas experience proves this virus can hit all ages.

"The deaths we've seen around the world are not confined to older people and people with pre-existing conditions. In fact, we have seen younger adults who are otherwise perfectly healthy die from this virus - they are not immune."

Dr Bloomfield announced 20 new cases with 13 people in hospital and three in ICU on Wednesday.

A total of nine New Zealanders have died from COVID-19 and 728 people have now recovered.  

And our newest cluster - another Auckland rest home - is our 16th. 

But while there were no further reported fatalities today the death of an Invercargill man last night is being investigated by the Ministry of Health amid reports he was COVID-19 positive. 

New Zealand is now waiting to hear if we have lost another life in our fight against the virus.