Northland's aged-care facilities are being assessed to see how prepared they are for any Covid-19 outbreaks.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced that there were 18 new coronavirus cases across the country in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday - 14 confirmed cases and four probable cases - a drop on the 29 cases in the previous 24 hours. There were no new cases in Northland.

Bloomfield said there were now 1330 cases in New Zealand, with 471 of those who had the virus now fully recovered. There have been four Covid-19-linked deaths, all elderly people.

There are 14 people in hospital, one is in a critical condition, with five people in ICU across the country.

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Bloomfield said 18 new cases was encouraging and he'd hope the downward trend would continue over the next few days as testing ramped back up.

"All New Zealanders should take heart in that."

There are still 25 cases in Northland. There are no cases in Northland hospitals, with 19 self-isolating at home and six who had recovered. Of the cases, six were Māori and 18 non-Māori (one unknown).

All four Covid-19 related deaths in New Zealand deaths were elderly people and Bloomfield said there are three significant clusters in aged-residential-care facilities across NZ - two in Christchurch and one in Waikato.

He said the deaths over the last few days - with two from the same aged-care facility - showed this group was vulnerable to a particularly poor outcome.

Priority work was happening in this area to protect vulnerable older people, he said.

Bloomfield said he wrote to all DHB chief executives, including in Northland, asking them to systematically assess the readiness of all aged-care facilities in their areas.

DHBs will look at each facility's plans and procedures to reduce risk to staff and residents, including assessing PPE stocks and ensuring there is a good process for resupply

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The Ministry of Health has also provided guidance to the sector on managing staff and residents with potential Covid-19 infections.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website
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Guidance on measures aged-care facilities should have in place were updated, Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield urged anyone who was unwell, particularly aged-care workers, to seek care without delay and not go to work.

They could do this by calling their GP or Healthline, he said. Bloomfield said healthcare was always an essential service which people could seek out.

Calls to Healthline were now being answered within 10 seconds, he said.

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Bloomfield urged people to reach out "across the generations" this Easter Sunday to keep
whānau connected.

On Saturday, 2421 tests were processed on a "quieter" day, likely because it was Easter weekend, but the rolling average was 3523 tests a day. More than 61,100 tests had now been carried out across the country.

There is also some good news for parents.

On schools reopening, Bloomfield said they were providing advice to the Ministry of Education to ensure students and staff could social-distance and contact-trace.

Schools are being advised they could reopen to some students by April 29, if the lockdown is lifted on April 20.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he wanted to keep expectations reasonable and stressed the decision would be based on public health advice.

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After the lockdown was lifted and New Zealand went back to alert level 3, it would take some time for schools to prepare for children to come back, he said.

Meanwhile, Northland's Covid-19 testing stations are open this week.