Coronavirus: Single new case of COVID-19 recorded in New Zealand

There has been one new confirmed case of COVID-19 recorded in New Zealand, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has revealed.

The person is a household contact of a previously confirmed case linked to the Matamata cluster. The Waikato District Health Board is calling for anyone in Matamata concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 to seek advice if they want to look at being tested. They do not have to be directly linked to the St Patrick's Day event the cluster primarily relates to.

New Zealand now has 1489 confirmed and probable cases, of which 1332 cases have recovered. There are two people in hospital - Middlemore and Auckland City Hospital - and neither are in intensive care. Dr Bloomfield said New Zealand continues to have 16 significant clusters.

No new deaths have been reported.

On Wednesday, 7323 tests were processed, the highest daily number yet. Overall, 168,023 tests have been completed.

The first review of 32 decisions on managed isolation exemptions has been completed, as has the review of criteria used in this process. It found all the decisions were made correctly, however, some would have been different if assessed against updated criteria.

Finally, Dr Bloomfield said evidence on the use of masks in public has been released. The key finding was that science remains inconclusive. There are risks and benefits. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand can be proud of our small numbers, but we remain under alert level 3 until at least next Monday when Ardern and her Cabinet decided to either extend or lift the rules.

"We need every number from every single day to get the full set of data and we need the view of the Director-General of Health. We will make a balanced decision," she said.

The impact of restrictions on livelihoods will be considered.

"Every alert level has its own battle, and even when you win one, it doesn't mean the war is over.

"It is very unlikely that we have hunted down every single case of COVID-19. If stray cases start new chains of transmission we might not find them for a month. So, we all have to stay on guard."

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.

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