A Tauranga man in his 30s who recently returned from the United States is the city's first positive Covid-19 case.

He is among the 14 new confirmed cases announced today, bringing the total number in New Zealand now to 66, the Ministry of Health said.

The Tauranga man had returned to New Zealand on March 17 on a flight from the United States. His flight details were yet to be made public.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack. Photo / File
Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack. Photo / File

The Ministry of Health has since admitted it made an error saying a second man from the region came from the Coromandel. That man, aged in his 60s, had in fact come from Waikato.


Bay of Plenty Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack is reminding residents of the importance of washing your hands regularly, and where you can, keeping space between yourself and others, following the confirmed case of Covid-19 in Tauranga.

Shoemac said in a statement today the confirmed Tauranga case was a resident who had returned from the United States on March 17.

He developed symptoms after arriving home and was tested for Covid-19 at a local testing clinic.

Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell. Photo / File
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell. Photo / File

Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell said: "It is very concerning given our city's age demographic. We have more people aged over 65 living here than any other city or town in New Zealand."

He hinted he would make some big changes to facilities in Tauranga as a result.

"That is why I will shortly be announcing some pretty significant closures of facilities either later today or tomorrow morning," he said.

Powell said he would not disclose what facilities would be subject to closure at this time.

"We're very mindful that it is not just the physical health of those who are in self-isolation that we need to be concerned about, it's also their mental health," Powell said.


Powell said everyone needed to remember "we're are all in this together" and people needed to consider other people's needs as well as their own.

Powell urged Tauranga residents to check in with the neighbours, especially those living on their own.

He also said he was disturbed by all the panic buying at supermarkets, including people loading up with mountains of toilet paper and reports of checkout operators being abused.

"We are not going run out of food and essential supplies and this type of panicky behaviour is just not helping the situation. We need everyone to come together and be more considerate and respectful to each other."

Age Concern Tauranga general manager Tanya Smith said it was a concerning for everyone, particularly those living alone in remote rural communities. But Smith said it was not the time for huge panic as this could make people even more distressed and unwell.

She said for those seniors worried about their medication or food supplies, it was not the time to sit in silence and be worried they would be a burden if they asked for help.

"It's vital our older citizens stay connected with their family, friends or their neighbours. If they need to they can phone Age Concern as we have amazing staff and wonderful volunteers who can help assist people to get the support they need," Smith said.

"We all have the power to connect in a safe way and help each other through this anxious time," she said.

Smith said this included people checking on their neighbours and asking what if any support they needed. This could be done either by phone, emailing or even leaving notes of kindness in people's mailboxes, she said.

"What we really need is for people to stay calm, take a breath and work out what they need to do to look after themselves and others in need in our community.

"We certainly don't need people panicking and going nutso at the supermarket," Smith said.

She said the Government and Ministry of Health officials were doing all they could to reduce the country's risk from the coronavirus, but we each had a responsibility in our own neighbourhood to do "our bit" and that meant "supporting each other" through the crisis.

Meanwhile, while public health is working to identify people who may have been in contact with the man, Shoemack has a message to the wider community.

"We anticipated we would get cases of Covid-19 in our region at some stage, and now that we do, we all have a role to play in stopping further spread.

"Wash your hands often. Use soap for 20 seconds, then dry them. This kills the virus by bursting its protective bubble. Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean. Cough or sneeze into your elbow. It keeps the virus off your hands, so you won't spread it to other people and make them sick too. Stay home if you are sick, and try to keep yourself out of any situation where you come into face-to-face contact with others closer than one metre away, for more than 15 minutes."

The symptoms of Covid-19 include a cough, a high temperature (at least 38°C), and shortness of breath.

If you have these symptoms and have recently been overseas or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19, please telephone Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or call your doctor immediately. Do not turn up to a health or medical centre without phoning first.

If you have concerns, you can contact the dedicated Covid-19 Healthline number for free on 0800 358 5453, or call your local doctor.