Coronavirus: 14 new cases in New Zealand, total now 66

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 22 Mar 2020, 1:05PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Coronavirus: 14 new cases in New Zealand, total now 66

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 22 Mar 2020, 1:05PM

New Zealand has 14 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the country's total number of cases to 66.

The country's alert level is still at two, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says.

An earlier statement giving the total of 67 was incorrect, the Ministry of Health says.

"The correct number is 66. Unfortunately our notes for Dr Bloomfield inaccurately said 67.

There are five confirmed cases in Auckland, one in Northland, one in Canterbury, two in New Plymouth, two in Waikato including one in Hamilton, one in Tauranga, one in the Coromandel and one in Dunedin.

All are in self-isolation with close contacts being identified and followed up. Eleven of the cases have a history of international travel, while one is a close contact of a confirmed case.

Two were at the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown earlier in March, where there were a number of delegates from overseas.

There are four probable cases. All four have previously been reported in the media, Bloomfield told a media conference this afternoon.

Just over 1200 lab tests were carried out yesterday - there have now been more than 6000 tests for the virus.

Two cases announced yesterday were possible cases of community tranmission. There has still been no firm link to overseas travel identified.

Bloomfield said he understood people in the areas where those two people lived would be concerned but asked they continue good hygiene practices and maintain social distancing while investigations continued.

Any passengers who disembarked from the Celebrity Solstice and the Ruby Princess in New Zealand have been asked to self-isolate.

The two cruise ships recently visited New Zealand and have now had confirmed cases of Covid-19 on board.

Delegates at the Hereford cattle conference in Queenstown - held March 9 - 13 - are being contacted after four attendees including two NZers, an Australian and a person from Uruguay, tested positive.

Attendees at that conference are all considered close contacts and are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Alert level 2 means Covid-19 is "contained but risk of community transmission growing" and human contact must be further reduced.

Bloomfield had a message for people aged over 70, who have been asked to stay home.

"We know many of you are fit and healthy and living active lives but the older we are the less able our immune systems are to fight off this virus ... we have seen from overseas that older people are at more risk of serious complications so we are strongly encouraging you - in fact urging you - to be aware of the need to stay at home and not to have contact with others."

Friends and family - especially children - should be asked not to visit, he said.

No patients are in ICU, and none of the new cases are in hospital at this point, Bloomfield said.

People have reported struggling to get through to Healthline.

Bloomfield acknowledged it was overloaded and said it was not there to give people general information about the virus. There was enough capacity if people only used it to ask about their symptoms and get health advice.

New Zealand "may well" need to move to Level 3 and 4 alert levels to help stop the health system being overloaded, he said.

Bloomfield said we should still not be testing everyone who just has symptoms - the case definition remains someone having a history of overseas travel or an obvious link to overseas travel, or a history of being in close contact of a probable, confirmed or suspected case, as well as having symptoms.

"It's important we test the right people not people who are at low risk."

Bloomfield confirmed that a person living in a retirement home in Auckland had caught the virus, as reported yesterday. That person lived alone within the village, so he was not particularly concerned as all the right steps had been followed, he said.

 

The Ministry of Health was on Saturday waiting for the test results of two possible cases of community transmission – unrelated to overseas travel - in Auckland and Wairarapa.

Bloomfield said Saturday the possibility of community transmission in the two cases still under investigation couldn't be ruled out.

"We always knew that cases not linked to travel could happen and we are prepared for that."

Confirmed cases in New Zealand are almost all from overseas and the rising numbers of cases reflects how many people are arriving with COVID-19, not how it spreading in New Zealand.