The number of confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus in Northland has gone up to 11 as the Government works to increase testing capacity and broaden the criteria so that those with upper respiratory symptoms are tested.

A man in his 50s arrived from the United States on March 22 and a woman in her 30s are the latest positive cases in Northland.

The Ministry of Health is still tracing whether the woman travelled from overseas or had contact with people who had.

Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay yesterday revealed of the 61 new confirmed and cases of Covid-19 throughout New Zealand, 14 were in hospital and two of those in ICU in a stable condition.

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The number of confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in the country is now 708.

McElnay said 82 people have recovered and no further deaths have occurred.

More than half of the cases were due to overseas travel, and about 1 per cent were community transmissions.

A new directive to test more and looser testing criteria would lead to more tests, an increase in confirmed cases, and a clearer picture of the prevalence of Covid-19 in communities, she said.

McElnay said it was early days and more cases will spring up as testing capacity increased to 5000 tests a day.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the testing criteria would be widened, and now anyone with upper respiratory symptoms - such as a sore throat, or shortness of breath - should be tested.

She warned New Zealanders against being complacent on the back of the lower growth in numbers of confirmed cases.

Although 61 new cases yesterday seemed "heartening" on the face of it, she said it was too early to say if the lockdown was slowing transmission.

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Ardern said more testing capacity would provide a fuller picture and that clusters showed how quickly Covid-19 spreads.

READ MORE:
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Covid 19 coronavirus: Two more Northland cases, NZ now at 589
Covid 19 coronavirus: Eleven confirmed coronavirus cases in Northland
Covid-19 coronavirus: Six Northland cases with two in Whangārei hospital

A number of Northland businesses and employees have applied for government help since the lockdown began last week, although the exact number of applications are still being collated.

The Ministry of Social Development received 16 applications for hardship grants from Northland— the second highest number after Auckland where 37 applications were made.

The applications that covered food and other costs were lodged between March 13 and 19 and excludes wage subsidy and leave payments.

Ministers Phil Twyford and Shane Jones have been tasked with putting together a public works programme to get under way as soon as possible to put unemployed people to work.

In Whangārei, Rafael Calonge decided to help healthcare workers by producing 3D face masks to add to their stocks.

Calonge was inspired to undertake the latest initiative after seeing colleagues in Spain struggling to cope with an escalating number of coronavirus cases.

Although not practising now, Rafael is a nurse and his wife is a doctor. He said they understood the worry that healthcare workers had about a lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) available in New Zealand and decided to do something about it.

"We can all learn from what is going on in Europe by acting now. We don't want to end up like in Spain, where 17 per cent of the health workforce, have the virus."

Rafael was inspired by a group in Spain, called CoronavirusMakers.Org who collaborate through an app called Telegram to share designs for 3D printed respirators and face masks.

Rafael Calonge, left, and Cartridge World got together and made 3D face masks for health care workers. Photo / Supplied
Rafael Calonge, left, and Cartridge World got together and made 3D face masks for health care workers. Photo / Supplied

So he set about finding a 3D Printer, which was difficult because most businesses in Northland are in lockdown. He approached Matthew Betts, the manager of Cartridge World in Whangārei, who was open to the idea and came on board to help him produce 10 masks so far using prototypes suggested and available to download on Coronavirusmakers.org.

The next step was to offer the masks to the Northland District Health Board. He spoke to one of the nurses at the Covid-19 Community Testing Centre in Whangārei to explain what he was doing and gave some masks to test.

For Rafael and Betts, this project is altruistic and they said the masks needed to be free. If they produce enough, they hope to supply them to police and supermarkets as well.

Rafael is now looking for other 3D printers to use locally, and support from web developers and CAD designers and would appreciate it if they get in contact with him to support.

Rafael encourages others to look into ways to help.

"I think that the most important point is trying to help the ones that need to be out of their houses as much as possible, as they provide the essential services. They are there for our safety and wellbeing: health workers, public services, supermarkets, cleaning services."

Another thing he would like to emulate from Spain is to get New Zealanders to show their appreciation for essential workers by venturing outside every night to clap for them at 8pm.