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The number of significant Covid-19 "clusters" in New Zealand has jumped by seven in just 24 hours, putting further pressure on the health system.

The largest new cluster is linked to the Royal New Zealand Air Force rugby team which competed in a United States tournament last month.

Another new cluster was linked to a wedding in Bluff, which took place before large gatherings were banned in this country.


The number of people in New Zealand confirmed with Covid-19 increased from 552 on Monday to 600 on Tuesday, with another 47 probable cases, while the number of clusters doubled to 14.

It comes as both the United Kingdom and Spain have reported their deadliest days so far as the coronavirus crisis shows no sign of letting up in Europe.

A total 367 deaths were reported in Britain on Tuesday, bringing its toll to 1651, while another 849 deaths pushed Spain's toll to 8189.

More than 800,000 cases of Covid-19 have now been confirmed across 178 countries, with Europe and the United States the new epicentres of the crisis. More than 38,000 people have died.

The US death toll has exceeded 3000, according to state and county health agencies — more than the number of people who died in the initial September 11, 2001 attacks. Health officials have warned that the virus could kill as many as 200,000 people in America, even "if we do things … almost perfectly".

A minute's silence in Spain as the death toll soars. Video / AP


In New Zealand, those identified as clusters are not necessarily new or recent cases, rather they have now been linked because they have been in the same place together.

Most of these clusters have a link to someone or several people who have travelled overseas recently.


The seven new clusters include:

• Living Earth, Christchurch: 8 cases
• RNZAF rugby team's United States visit, Blenheim: 9 cases
• Bluff wedding, Bluff: 8 cases
• Marlborough cluster, Marlborough: 6 cases
• Hutt City cluster 1: 4 cases
• Hutt City cluster 2: 3 cases
• Colorado ski-boat builder, Auckland: 4 cases
• Spectrum care, Auckland: 4 cases

The largest cluster remains Auckland girls' school Marist College, which has 48 confirmed and probable cases, with one new case confirmed since Monday.

Of the newly-identified clusters the largest is linked to Blenheim, where nine cases have been tied to the RNZAF rugby team's trip to the United States.

A Nelson Marlborough Health spokeswoman said the RNZAF cluster stemmed from one of the first confirmed cases in the region. Three cases remained in the area, while the rest had returned to their normal areas of residence.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesman confirmed to the Herald the RNZAF cases related to the men's and women's team attending the recent Anzus Shield rugby tournament in Denver, Colorado, in mid-March.

All cases had been self-isolating since returning, and no cases required hospital care, he said.

Meanwhile, eight cases have been confirmed at Christchurch compost company Living Earth, and another eight from a wedding in Bluff at Oyster Cove Restaurant and Bar on March 21.

The wedding, understood to be of about 80 guests from out of town, was held when the Government was still permitting gatherings of up to 100 people.

Bluff Community Board chairman Ray Fife said he was shocked to hear the news and had not received formal notification of the cluster.

"I just hope those people who have been confirmed [as having the virus] make a full recovery."

Alzheimers NZ chief executive Catherine Hall confirmed one of the Marlborough cases was a client of Alzheimers Marlborough, and staff involved had been in self-isolation since they were identified.

That case was part of a cluster of six, and originated from one person returning from overseas who tested positive on March 20.

The cases linked to the boat builder came after an employee was skiing in Colorado, a Ministry of Health spokeswoman said.

There are two clusters in Hutt City, one with four and another three, while Auckland charitable care provider for people with disabilities Spectrum Care now has four cases, up from two on Monday.

There have been 11 new cases added to the Redoubt Bar cluster in Matamata, with 23 now stemming from St Patrick's Day celebrations on March 17.

The cluster from the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown has also increased, with 24 cases now, up from 19 on Monday.

There are cases recorded in all 20 district health boards (DHBs). To date nationally 14 cases are in hospital, one person has died and 74 people have recovered.

Southern DHB now has the highest number of cases, with 98, and Auckland DHB close behind on 97.

There have been 21,384 lab tests since March 3, and an average of 1777 in the past week.

Of the total cases, 53 per cent are linked to international travel and 29 per cent linked to known cases.

Just 1 per cent has been linked to community transmission and the origins of 17 per cent of cases are still being investigated.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted in Tuesday afternoon's press conference authorities weren't testing widely enough to tell where the community outbreaks were, so the case definition has been expanded. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website