A third case of coronavirus has been confirmed in New Zealand.

Health minister Dr David Clark told the AM Show this morning he had received a report of a third positive test of Covid-19.

He did not know where the person was in New Zealand but said their case was not related to the second case of Covid-19 in New Zealand, which was confirmed yesterday. Further information would be issued at a media update this afternoon.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed a third case of coronavirus Covid-19 in New Zealand. Photo / File
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed a third case of coronavirus Covid-19 in New Zealand. Photo / File

Contact tracing for the patient had begun.

Advertisement

The case comes just one day after a woman in her 30s was confirmed to have the virus after arriving back in New Zealand on February 26 from northern Italy, where there is an outbreak.

That woman then took two domestic flights between Palmerston North and Auckland on March 2.

READ MORE
Ministry of Health confirms NZ has two coronavirus cases
Coronavirus case: 'Bullied' woman, family in isolation, 100 Air NZ passengers being contacted
Coronavirus case: 'Terrified' grandmother worried she's infected others
Coronavirus testing: Five questions answered

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Video / World Health Organization (WHO)

She also visited two medical centres before being diagnosed. Health authorities are contact tracing for the woman, who is in self-isolation.

Her partner is also in self-isolation and is displaying symptoms - his test for the virus is expected back later today. He is not the third confirmed case, Health Minister Dr David Clark told the AM Show.

Her two children - who attend Westlake Boys' and Westlake Girls' High School - are also in self-isolation but are not displaying any symptoms.

Public health staff were making "very good progress" contacting those who had been on the flights, Clark said.

Health Minister David Clark. Photo / File
Health Minister David Clark. Photo / File

The first case was confirmed on Friday February 28 after a person in their 60s returned to New Zealand from Iran via Bali. They felt unwell and wore a mask on their flight before heading to Auckland City Hospital where they are in isolation.

Advertisement

Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning that person is stable and continuing to improve, but being sent home from hospital is "not on the horizon".

He said children from Westlake Boys' and Westlake Girls' High Schools were not at risk from the virus.

"The lowest attack rate seems to be in people under 18 and furthermore, kids get a mild illness if they get it at all."

Neither is displaying symptoms of the virus and it is rare for asymptomatic people to spread the illness, according to the World Health Organisation. The virus is normally transmitted by people coughing or sneezing.

In the past day the WHO's Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the global mortality rate was 3.4 per cent - higher than the 2 per cent that has been widely cited.

Focus Live: Westlake Boys High School headmaster responds to coronavirus concerns after infected woman’s son attends school.

However, Bloomfield said he was not too concerned about that number as it was a "crude rate" based on the number of deaths divided by the number of reported cases. There were likely to be many additional unreported cases.

Speaking to ZB's Kate Hawkesby this morning, Otago University Professor of Public Health Michael Baker said people should be ready for a community outbreak - and should start staying home if they have respiratory illness.

Baker has previously expressed concerns at New Zealand's lack of preparedness for a pandemic, but he said the current approach to the virus was "very reasonable".

That meant banning arrivals from certain places and requiring self-quarantine from others.

Otago University Professor of Public Health Michael Baker says people need to stay home if they have fever, weakness or a cough. Photo / File
Otago University Professor of Public Health Michael Baker says people need to stay home if they have fever, weakness or a cough. Photo / File

But he said people should be ready for the disease to move to a community outbreak phase - and at that point the response should be very different.

"We have to now start planning for the idea that there will be at a certain point a move into the management phase when containment is no longer possible and you have community transmission."

READ MORE
NZ has a pandemic plan. How does it work?
Q&A: What will coronavirus mean for NZ?
Deadly coronavirus looms as threat to red-hot housing market
Coronavirus: 70 University of Auckland medical students called back to New Zealand

While he said it was possible nobody in New Zealand had yet been infected, people with respiratory illness should be staying home from work and school and not socialising.

Data out of China showed that there were three key symptoms of Covid-19 - fever, cough and fatigue (feeling unwell and weak).

"We have to get in the habit now, if you develop those symptoms, regardless of if you've been overseas or in New Zealand - just stay at home."

Baker said people's panic buying was understandable, given the scenes of chaos overseas.

"The message now is prepare, don't panic. That's easy to say, everyone has varying levels of anxiety. But the thing that will get us through this is ... just good preparation, listening to instructions and information coming out of the Ministry of Health - they are really doing an extremely good job on this."