There are two new deaths in New Zealand from Covid-19, taking the country's total toll to 16, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield announced this afternoon.

He also revealed there have been just three new cases in New Zealand, two confirmed and one probable, the smallest number so far.

The total number of Covid-19 cases is 1451.

One of the new deaths was of a 62-year-old Invercargill woman who has been fighting for her life in intensive care in Dunedin Hospital.


She died overnight and is the second person from Invercargill to die of Covid-19.

Her previous condition has been the subject of confusion and today led to an apology by Bloomfield. He had previously said that the woman was in a "critical condition".

But yesterday he said she was in a "stable condition" which reflected the fact that there had been no change in her critical condition, Bloomfield said.

"I am very sorry because I think that did create some anxiety and concern for the families."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government is looking at changing the language used when it comes to how it describes people's conditions.

"No one wants to create any kind of extra additional distress for families, as has obviously been caused in this case."

Bloomfield said he would happily get in touch with the family if they would like him to.

"While her family had not been able to visit her over the past few weeks, arrangements were made for them to be with her last night as she passed away."


The woman's daughter, Nicole, has said she was initially elated when she heard the briefing and thought her mother's condition must have changed since they had spoken to doctors that morning.

The second new death announced today was a man in his 70s from Christchurch's Rosewood Rest Home who died in the rest home's hospital unit. Eight other rest-home residents have died at the home or in Burwood Hospital.

The man initially tested negative for the disease but was a probable case and included in the mortality statistics.

Ardern said it was "devastating" to see the impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable communities, such as Rosewood.

Bloomfield said there "may well" be other deaths in the future.

Asked about compulsory face masks, Bloomfield said that was not the Government's recommendation.

He said physical distancing and maintaining bubbles were more important.

If people wanted to wear them, they could, Ardern said, but masks were "no supplement" for social distancing.

Bloomfield said there were disadvantages of using masks. He said it was important that if people are wearing masks, they refrained from touching their face.

Meanwhile, the number of people who had recovered is 1065.

There are eight people in hospital, with one person in ICU in Middlemore Hospital.

There were 6480 tests processed yesterday - there have been more than 101,200 tests so far.

Bloomfield said the ministry was looking into providing regional specific ethnic breakdowns of Covid-19 figures.

Ardern said she would likely be "changing up" her daily press briefings under level 3, but she did not provide details.

Police will set up checkpoints this long weekend to stop any unessential travel.

Level 3

Ardern said her message remained, "if you can work from home, you should be working from home".

She said she had heard the numbers returning to school were "relatively small".

Bloomfield confirmed GPs will be open in level 3 as they had been in level 4 but would be continuing to provide virtual consultations where they could.

"If you have symptoms of Covid-19 or respiratory symptoms, please seek help through Healthline or by calling ahead to your regular doctor."

Community pharmacies remained open.

Some elective services including surgeries and radiology will be available and more detail would follow.

He said dentists would be able to provide "urgent face-to-face appointments" under alert level 3 but not routine dental care.

Community midwives could continue "the fantastic work they do with pregnant women out in the community, using virtual means where possible but also face to face".

There would be some allowances for face-to-face physiotherapy, podiatry and optometry, where urgent care is required. But they would continue to provide services virtually.

Community mental healthcare would be done by virtual means or phone but face-to-face appointments could be done "if necessary".

Hospitals remained open for emergency and acute care.

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At aged residential care, only family visits for palliative and compassionate reasons would be considered, case by case

Bloomfield said new guidance around people being allowed to visit family members in hospital will be made available soon.

Ardern said she was okay for community-based iwi checkpoints to remain open in level 3, so long as they are operating within the law and working with the police.

Hunting allowed

On hunting, Ardern said in many parts of the country this is an important part of providing food for families.

She reiterated that hunting is allowed under level 3, if it's on private land.

"Hunting is an important part of many New Zealanders' lives," she said.

Duck hunting season has been pushed out for a couple of weeks.

"I know this will be disappointing for many," she said.

However it was important that people keep their social distancing.

Second wave of Covid-19

Ardern said the Government was doing "everything we can" to prevent the same second wave of Covid-19 that has been seen overseas. She was confident that a second wave would not occur in New Zealand.

Asked if New Zealand would never again get into the double digits of new cases each day, Ardern said: "There is no such thing as never".

She said it was up to New Zealand's "team of five million" to prevent the number of new cases rising again. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Ardern said the contact tracing will be able to make up to 10,000 calls a day.

"Surge capacity is there and it's ready."

Bloomfield said his teams are out in the field to assess what more regional public health units need to operate.

Meanwhile, the Ministry is doing a stocktake of PPE, and how it's being rolled out across the country.

The Government is in discussions with hospitals to potentially provide more funding.

When it comes to providing aid to the Pacific, Ardern suggested that what New Zealand provides to island countries will remain the same post-Covid.

"When there is need, New Zealand will do its bit."

Helicopter money

Asked if the Government was looking into "helicopter money" for New Zealanders, Ardern said the Government was looking into a "range of options".

Direct payments to all New Zealanders could be made to help the economy recover from the fallout of Covid-19, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said this morning.

Asked if she would allow overseas billionaires to buy land in NZ to help stimulate the economy, she played that idea down, saying it was not new and it was not something she was in favour of.

Anzac Day

Ardern will be taking part in Stand at Dawn, which encourages Kiwis to stand at their driveways at dawn on Anzac Day. She will be standing at her driveway at 6am to show her support.

She said it was important to pay tribute to those who lost their lives. More information was on the website.

She thanked the Defence Force today, "past, present and future". She said they are doing important work during Covid-19.

She also praised New Zealand's civil defence groups, who have been working behind the scenes to help Kiwis.

"This is business as usual for them," she said, but she added they did have new extra powers.

Media support package

The Government has unveiled a $50 million package to help the media industry which has seen advertising revenues plummet due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi announced a $50 million package aimed at helping New Zealand's media industry through Covid-19.

The funding consists of:

• $21.1 million to completely cut transmission fees for 6 months

• $16.5 million to cut by 80 per cent contribution for NZ On Air screen content in 2020-21

• $1.3 million for Government departments to purchase organisation-wide news service subscriptions