More people have recovered from coronavirus in the last 24 hours than tested positive and an upbeat health boss Ashley Bloomfield says New Zealand can be "increasingly confident" about its lockdown response.

But almost 300 people have breached lockdown laws, the Director-General Health revealed at his daily press conference, with 16 prosecutions, 263 warnings and other cases referred to youth aid.

Those cases don't include the Health Minister David Clark, who has twice breached the rules - once for a 20km drive with his family to the beach and again when he drove to a park to go mountain biking.

Bloomfield announced 54 new coronavirus cases today - 32 confirmed cases and 22 probable cases. It brings the total number of New Zealand cases to 1160 since the pandemic began.

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With 241 people now considered recovered, this is 65 people more than a day ago. In other words, 54 new cases today, and 65 recoveries.

Of those still suffering coronavirus, 12 are in hospital.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced earlier today that she had demoted Clark in Cabinet but that he would stay on as Health Minister.

"What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses," she told the 1pm press conference.

Ardern demoted him to the bottom of Cabinet this morning.

"He broke the rules, and he needs to pay a price."

But she said removing Clark as the Minister was "not in the best interests for New Zealanders".

The Government could not afford massive disruption to the healthcare system at this time. "Nothing else matters at this time," she said of the fight against Covid-19.

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Clark this morning admitted to a 40km round trip to the beach with his family during the first week of the lockdown – something that was specifically advised against by the Ministry he leads.

This comes after he was forced to admit a 2.3-kilometre drive to a mountain bike trail last week.

Ardern said it was a "massive mistake".

She said she was not interested in Clark's excuses - "not that he offered any".

"He has had to pay a personal price for this, but I'm determined that the health system will not."

Questioned further, she said: "You will hear no defence, no excuse".

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She would not say if she would sack Clark as a Minister after Covid-19 has subsided.

Asked about seeing players from the Crusaders out training during the lockdown, Ardern said that went against the rules.

"We can't do this alone, no one can be exempt."

Bloomfield told the press conference there had been more than 42,800 coronavirus tests so far in New Zealand including almost 3000 yesterday.

He said New Zealand could be "increasingly confident" in its Covid-19 response.

He said the death rates in other countries were much higher than New Zealand, where the rate currently sits at just 0.01 per cent.

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Bloomfield expected the number of new cases to "continue to stay level" before a decline.

He said there were an additional five people with Covid-19 in the Marist College clusters. In fact, he said just under half of the new cases were coming from clusters.

The number of people coming to New Zealand from overseas with Covid-19 has also been dropping.

The most affected age group is the 20-29 age bracket - 286 people with Covid-19 are in this group.

Bloomfield said the World Health Organisation was not advising people to wear masks outside, unless they were sick or looking after someone who was sick.

He was upbeat on the number of nasal swabs in New Zealand, saying there are plenty that can be distributed across the country.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government cannot afford massive disruption to the health case system. "He broke the rules, and he needs to pay a price."

Ardern said she had no advice as to whether the September election should be postponed.

"It's too early for me to say what the situation in New Zealand will be in even a month's time," she said, on pushing out the election date.

Ardern said officials were looking into some businesses that were breaking the wage subsidy rules.

In fact, the enforcement team had been "beefed up".

"I don't want grief on grief," Ardern said when asked about why people were not allowed to go to funerals.

READ MORE:
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Covid 19 coronavirus: NZ has 67 new Covid-19 cases but 'levelling off'; total now 1106
Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown: Health Minister David Clark demoted after driving 20km to beach, breaking lockdown rules
Covid 19 coronavirus: PM signals mandatory quarantine at borders to keep NZ free from foreign infection

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Bloomfield said he would continue to work closely with Clark, despite his demotion.

On the number of coronavirus cases, Ardern said: "We do appear to be on track."

But she said this was not the time to relax.

Ardern said she had messaged Boris Johnson when he was first diagnosed with Covid-19.

The British PM was admitted to ICU early this morning after his condition deteriorated.

Ardern said she had asked for legal advice around the Ruby Princess' owners, given New Zealand had a lot of Covid-19 cases from the ship.

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When it came to people with work visas who have lost their jobs, Ardern said this was an "ongoing discussion" with Government ministers.

Ardern said her message to those in the healthcare system was that it shouldn't take a pandemic to remind Kiwis how important healthcare staff are.

NZ's borders still a risk

On New Zealand's borders, she said the Government saw it as an "ongoing" area of risk.
The Government was doing all it could to strengthen that, she said.

She said border restrictions must be "watertight".

She indicated the Government would "ramp those up" and will be making more announcements about that "shortly".

Bloomfield said he was providing "active advice" to Cabinet about what should be happening at the borders.

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Ardern said there are "well over" 1000 people in hotels - "that is only set to increase".

Those people came from overseas.

The Government was actively monitoring those people, she said.

There were "literally tens of thousands" of Kiwis returning home, Ardern said.

Tracking all of them was problematic, given the scale, she said

But she reiterated that the Government was looking to beef up its presence at the border.

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Stay home over Easter

Speaking to Kiwis who might want to go away over the Easter break, Ardern made a familiar refrain: "Stay home."

Bloomfield called on people to have a "staycation" over the break.

More than 1 million Kiwis get wage subsidy, $6.6b paid out

The Government's wage subsidy to protect jobs and keep workers and businesses connected during the lockdown has now supported over a million New Zealanders, with $6.6 billion already paid out.


Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website