Christchurch retirement village care unit in lockdown after 'several' residents display respiratory illness symptoms

A care unit in a Christchurch retirement village has gone into lockdown after "several residents" began displaying symptoms of a respiratory illness.

The Village Palms Retirement Village in Shirley advised of the lockdown in a letter to family members of residents on Tuesday.

"We currently have several residents on our 1st floor care unit who are displaying symptoms of a respiratory illness," the letter says.

"We have forwarded swabs to the Public Health Department to test for COVID-19."

The letter says the chance of the illness being COVID-19 is low but the care unit will be placed into lockdown as a precautionary measure.

"We cannot take the risk of an outbreak should the unthinkable happen," it says.

"Even if the results come back negative for COVID-19, we still need to shield the residents entrusted into our care against Influenza A and other respiratory illnesses.

"With the current situation, we are sincerely sorry to inform you that we will be placing the care unit under strict lockdown and that we will not be allowing visitors for the time being."

The village's apartments are currently unaffected.

"We will, of course, keep you informed and notify you immediately when visiting your loved ones in our care can resume."

New Zealand has now gone 102 days since the last case of COVID-19 was acquired in the community.

There are now 22 active cases in the country, but all have originated from international travel and have been detected in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

However, there have been several scares New Zealand may have been exposed to community transmission with multiple people escaping border facilities.

Many of these absconders have visited public places including a Hamilton escapee visiting a liquor store.

In another incident, a man in managed isolation in Auckland Central fled to the Victoria Street Countdown, which had to be closed and thoroughly cleaned.

New Zealand has now had 1220 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization. 

There have been 1570 cases overall (confirmed and probable), and 22 deaths.