VIRUS LATEST
• Global death toll rises to more than 106,000 - US deaths pass 20,000, higher than Italy and Spain
The Queen's rare Easter message - virus 'will not overcome us'
Wedlock! Kiwi couple marry on front lawn in isolation
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Latest developments and essential information


New Zealand's Covid-19 death toll doubled to four yesterday - amid fears it could grow even further after the second fatality from a cluster centred around a Christchurch rest home.

But the overall number of cases continued its downward trend: The number of people recorded as recovered - 49 - was higher than the number of new cases recorded - 29.

In eight days the Government is set to decide whether the country can come out of a four-week lockdown on or around April 23, or whether the restrictions need to continue to further eradicate the virus.

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The Covid-19 global death toll has risen to more than 106,000 and 1.7 million infected.

US coronavirus deaths surpassed 20,000 overnight, the highest reported number in the world, although there are signs the pandemic may be nearing a peak. Italy has the second most reported deaths at 19,468 and Spain is third with 16,353.

The World Health Organisation chief cautioned countries against lifting lockdown measures too early.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there had been a "welcome slowing" of the epidemic in some European countries and WHO was working with governments to form strategies for easing lockdowns.

"Lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence," he said. "The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly."

Health bosses confirmed yesterday two elderly people had died, including a man aged in his 70s who died in Christchurch's Burwood Hospital. He was among a group transferred from the Rosewood Rest Home to try to stop the spread of the virus.

On Friday, it was revealed a 90-year-old woman from the Rosewood cluster had become the second Covid-19 fatality in New Zealand.

Thirty people were in the cluster.

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Deaths linked to Covid-19 show the importance of an increasingly "agitated, frustrated and bored" public sticking with lockdown rules, experts say.

Clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire said the four deaths so far underlined the need to not start ignoring restrictions and stray outside one's "bubble" of social contact.

"It could be assumed that the declining daily Covid-19 case numbers will act as a collective motivation boost ... for some, this positive reinforcement will help them stay the course.

"However, these projected wins also coincide with the 'mid zone' of our four-week lockdown and Easter weekend. A period where many now agitated, frustrated and bored Kiwis are experiencing real loss: no family get-togethers at the bach, religious gatherings or community egg hunts.

"There is risk these falling case numbers provide a false sense of security ... moreover, with all four deaths occurring in the 70-plus age bracket, unhelpful beliefs that Covid-19 is only a risk for 'them' - the elderly - not 'us' may be strengthened."

Director of public health Caroline McElnay said the vulnerabilities of the people in Rosewood Rest Home group meant further deaths or serious illnesses couldn't be ruled out.

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"What we're seeing sadly in New Zealand, but also what we have seen overseas, is the impact Covid-19 has on that particularly frail and vulnerable group."

The other confirmed death yesterday was a Wellington man in his 80s.

The deaths served as a sad reminder of just how dangerous the virus could be to people who were elderly or had underlying health conditions, McElnay said.

Whānau couldn't be with their loved ones for their final hours because of the alert level 4.
McElnay thanked the healthcare workers who had stepped up to provide this support in their absence.

"On behalf of all New Zealanders, the ministry wants to sincerely thank frontline health staff who are also providing patients with comfort and support during these times."

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In New Zealand the downward trend of new infections continued yesterday, with 29 new cases reported. That brings the total infected to 1312, and 422 people recovered. Fifteen people are in hospital, including five in intensive care. One is in a critical condition.

The Wellington man died in Wellington Public Hospital on Friday. He became unwell on March 26 and was admitted to hospital two days later.

The man's infection was linked to an existing cluster that McElnay wouldn't identify for privacy reasons.

"We are confident that his close contacts have been traced and that there is no additional risk posed by this very sad death."

A new cluster was announced yesterday after 14 cases were identified at George Manning rest home, also in Christchurch.

Investigations into how the virus got into the rest homes were ongoing.

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One of two mystery Auckland clusters was revealed to be a facility for people with intellectual disabilities, Spectrum Care, where there have been 28 confirmed and probable cases.

But details of the second mystery cluster remain scarce.

McElnay only said it was a "private party to celebrate an event". She couldn't give a date and said that it wasn't a work function.

"There is ongoing transmission happening from some of the people who were at the function ... that infection has passed within household bubbles during lockdown."

Meanwhile, 16 New Zealanders and 96 Australians who'd been stuck on a cruise ship in Uruguay caught a mercy flight to Melbourne yesterday.

Thirteen New Zealanders will then be transferred to a flight back to Auckland Airport this afternoon where they will have full health checks, will be tested for Covid-19, then will enter a 14-day quarantine.

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About 30 New Zealand soldiers who served in Iraq were reuniting with their families yesterday after completing two weeks of isolation at Whenuapai Air Force Base.

The soldiers returned from Camp Taji in Iraq last month after a five-month stint training Iraqi soldiers alongside the Australian Defence Force.