There are 48 new confirmed and 10 probable Covid-19 coronavirus cases in New Zealand, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says.

This brings the total number of cases to 647 since the start of the pandemic.

Bloomfield said while there had been a drop in the number, he didn't think that it reflected a drop in the number of cases. The expectation was still that the number of cases would continue to rise.

Seventy-four people with coronavirus have since recovered, he said.


Fourteen people are in hospital - two people are in a stable condition in intensive care units.

Bloomfield said there was still a strong link to overseas travel and contact with already confirmed cases.

Clusters would be investigated and contact-traced, he said.

Bloomfield said it was "very important we keep our frontline health workers safe", regarding personal protective equipment.

He said he was conscious that frontline health workers not only needed to be safe, but to feel safe and he was aware that many were concerned they didn't have access to masks in order to feel safe.

A large number of masks would be distributed to frontline healthcare workers, he said.

The purpose of this is not to contradict what's in the guidelines, but to assure frontline healthcare workers that they could access PPE if they needed it, he said.

He said the release of the masks was to complement the ongoing hygiene advice.


Data modelling a 'sobering picture'

Regarding the modelling released this morning by the Government, he said it painted a "sobering picture" of what could happen if they didn't take these aggressive actions.

"We need to take this virus seriously and part of taking this seriously was making sure everybody had to play their part and observe the self-isolation rules."

"That is how we will collectively break the chain of transmission."

He said people should take the worst-case scenarios - which suggested fourteen thousand people could die if Covid-19 spreads out of control in New Zealand - "very seriously" as they show what would happen if the country didn't take lockdown measures.

Bloomfield said it was up to the Government how long NZ would be in lockdown.

Ideally, NZ wanted to break the chain of transmission and ultimately eradicate the virus, he said.

He said they wanted to increase testing further and that the case definition of Covid-19 would be widened, likely to not include overseas travel or contact with a confirmed case.

That was in response to the number of cases and that there was community transmission.

Asked about the extent of community spread, Bloomfield disagreed with Sir David Skegg's comment that NZ didn't know how wide it was because they knew where it was happening.

Bloomfield said he was very concerned about vulnerable populations, like Māori and Pacific communities and the disabled.

Asked why Air NZ flight crew were exempt from self-isolation, Bloomfield said they were able to take precautions.

The Government would consider giving people who've recovered from their symptoms a certificate, like in Germany, but would need to look into the benefits of doing that, Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said the lesson from the fatality on the West Coast was that anyone who presented to hospital with respiratory illnesses was that they should be treated as a Covid-19 case until proven otherwise.

The Ministry of Health's technical advisory group met this morning and Bloomfield said he'd asked them to look at the case definition and whether they needed to "decouple" the symptoms from the travel and contact history.

Asked about the Matamata cluster, he said this showed how much of a lag there was with Covid-19, as it was 10 days after the St Patrick's Day event from when there was a confirmed case.

Bloomfield said specific advice was going out to New Zealand's more vulnerable populations and Stuart-Black said they were embedding iwi leaders into the regional civil defence response teams.

More than 500 ventiltors in NZ

New Zealand has 533 ventilators and had ordered more from overseas.

More staff were being trained to operate those ventilators, Bloomfield said.

Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Sarah Stuart-Black, thanked everyone for their efforts under the alert-level-4 regulations

Local government entities had teamed up with central Government to create a local government response unit.

This would help people gain access to essential services, especially for those who are vulnerable.

The regional civil defence managment groups will be operating local helplines.

This is about local and central Government literally coming together to ensure people got help, she said.

Don't flush your wet wipes

She urged everyone to put wet wipes in the rubbish bin and not down the toilet, as they were blocking pipes.

Stuart-Black said they were working on how to get tourists back to their home countries but said it was difficult given how limited commercial options had become.

To people congregating in outdoor places, Stuart-Black urged: Please don't.

The Kiwi tradition of passing something over the fence to your neighbour was also banned, she said.

Stuart-Black said they weren't considering banning people from leaving the house.

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Yesterday, there were 76 new cases of Covid-19.

Sixty-three people had recovered.

There were also nine different clusters of cases, including one with 23 cases infected at a Matamata bar on St Patrick's Day, and 47 cases at Marist College in Auckland.

Otago University Professor and epidemiologist Sir David Skegg this morning told Parliament's Epidemic Response Committee that there needs to be a lot more testing to track the virus.

He said so far testing had been skewed towards those returning from overseas, and the actual number of cases was "far higher" than the 589 confirmed and probable cases to date. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Meanwhile, this morning the Government released the modelling it has been using to make its decisions and track the trajectory of Covid-19.

It showed that there could be between 12,600 and 33,600 deaths in the worst-case scenario if the coronavirus was left uncontrolled.