There is one more death and five new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, according to director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

And as New Zealand comes to the end of its more than four-week level 4 lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had some good news for the country.

Covid-19 has currently been eliminated.

Today was the eighth day in a row where the number of new Covid-19 cases has been in the single digits.


Asked about the low number of new cases, Bloomfield said: "That does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination."

However, he pointed out that elimination never meant zero – "but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from".

He said that the Government's goal has been elimination, not eradication – whereby the virus is completely stamped out in New Zealand.

"If you think about alert level 4, I would say we have achieved, through alert level 4, the position we wanted to be in so that we could now start to, move down alert levels."

Ardern was also optimistic – asked if New Zealand had eliminated Covid-19, she replied "currently".

But she pointed out that the next challenge for the Government was Covid-19's tail.

"Elimination means we may well reach zero, but we may well then have small numbers of cases coming up again," she told media this afternoon.

"That doesn't mean we have failed, it just means that we're in the position to have that zero-tolerance approach to have very aggressive management of those cases and keep those numbers low."


Bloomfield said he was confident New Zealand can go into alert level 3 safely.

Ardern said NZ was 11 hours away from leaving the "strictest" constraints in NZ's modern history.

"We did. And we did it together."

She praised Bloomfield: "I think we are lucky to have a public servant of Dr Bloomfield's calibre leading the health response and I have very much enjoyed sharing a podium with you."

The person who died was a woman in her 90s at St Margaret's Hospital.

She had a number of underlying health conditions and was the third person in that cluster to die.

She was the 19th person to die from coronavirus-related causes in New Zealand.

Waitematā DHB released a statement following the death.

"The thoughts and prayers of Waitematā DHB's staff and management are with the patients family and friends at this difficult time. We are all saddened by their loss and ask that the family's privacy is respected as they mourn the passing of their loved one."

Bloomfield said the Government was looking into testing changes it can make in terms of aged residential facilities - not just for the residents, but also staff.

In terms of the new cases, one is new and four are probable cases.

Three are linked to St Margaret's Hospital, with two linked to other cases.

Some cases 'reclassified'

Six cases that were probable have been reclassified, meaning the national total is 1469.

Bloomfield said some public health units were reviewing some probable cases and that was why some classifications have changed.

The ministry would continue to do this, he said.

There is only one case in New Zealand that is still being investigated.

Bloomfield said the case was in Tauranga and while there was a "strong suspicion" of a potential link, it had not been confirmed.

In response to a request for further information about the case, including when they tested positive and how many people were working on the investigation, a Ministry of Health spokesperson said no further information about the individual would be released at this stage.

Bloomfield said there would be ongoing monitoring of confirmed cases.

Active management of cases means there are daily phone calls to those infected.

He said a new Health Act order comes into effect tonight, when New Zealand goes into alert level 3.

The latest Covid-19 death was of a woman in her 90s from St Margarets in Te Atatu. Photo / File
The latest Covid-19 death was of a woman in her 90s from St Margarets in Te Atatu. Photo / File

He reminded anyone with health needs to not delay seeking help through GPs, or to contact Healthline.

He said there was no doubt some people's treatment has been delayed in alert level 4.

Going into alert level 3, the treatment of people with cancer will be prioritised.

There were almost 3000 tests yesterday, and about 123,000 in total. So far, 1180 people have recovered - about 80 per cent of the cases in NZ.

Seven people are in hospital.

Contact tracing 'scaled up significantly'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said NZ was 11 hours away from leaving the "strictest" constraints in NZ's modern history.

Ardern said contact tracing has been scaled up "significantly".

The Government can make up to 10,000 calls a day.

Bloomfield said at the moment the ministry can trace 185 cases a day and that will be scaled up to 300 a day.

He said New Zealand was in the "gold standard" the Government was after.

He said it was important that people recall where they have been, and made a note of that.

That would help with contact tracing, he said.

This is all the more important in alert level 3, as people's contact with others expands, Bloomfield said.

On a possible contact tracing app, Ardern said it was not a replacement for limiting human contact.

"There are frailties to the system," she said.

But the Government is working on it.

Asked for a timeline, she said "soon," but the first iteration probably won't include using Bluetooth, she said.

Ardern said there "may well" be some similarities between the planned NZ contract tracing app, and the one in place in Australia.

She said she remains a bit sceptical about what these types of apps can deliver.

The apps only work if there is high uptake, she said.

"It does have its limitations."

"We cannot rely on this, we cannot place all our eggs in one basket," she said.

Ardern said there is strong evidence NZ does not have strong community transmission.

She said NZ can process up to 8000 tests a day - one of the highest testing per capita in the world.

Ardern said people should pause to digest the country's low number of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

She said that, without the lockdown, there would have been more than 1000 cases a day.

She said this shows why the lockdown was necessary.

"We have avoided the worst."

But it is tragic that NZ has lost 19 people, she said.

"We send you our love at your time of loss.

"This has been one of the hardest elements of level 4," she said, of people not being able to be with loved ones when they die.

"We must hunt down the last few cases ... this is like a needle in a haystack."

She said level 3 "will not be a return to pre-Covid life".

She called on the "team of five million" to make sure the country does not have a second wave.

Level 3 risks: 'We can only do this if we continue to pull together'

Ardern said in order to make a move to alert level 2 in two weeks, there will need to be a confidence that there is no community transmission.

"We can only do this if we continue to pull together. If we need to stay at level 3 [for longer] we will."

Ardern said in level 3 there are new risks - namely people coming into more contact with others.

"We are opening up the economy, but we're not opening up people's social lives."

Ardern said she was expecting 400,000 people to return to work tomorrow.

"Think about our local businesses, they need our support," she said.

Asked what takeaway she was most looking forward to, she said she was most looking forward to the chance to support small businesses.

Ardern said the Government hasn't put down "trigger points" when it comes to numbers, as to whether New Zealand would go back to level 4.

She said New Zealand needed to continue to be vigilant.

She encouraged people who are flatting to think carefully before expanding their bubbles.

"They do need to think cautiously, and act cautiously."

Asked about universities charging students for rooms that they're not living in, Ardern called for compassion.

"We want to see humanity," she said, although she admitted she needed more detail on the specifics.

The Government will continue to support Kiwi businesses hit by Covid-19, she said.

Cabinet will meet tomorrow at 10am.

Today will be the last day of daily joint press conferences - the ministry will continue to deliver them from now, she said.

"I consider NZ to be very lucky to have a public servant like Dr Bloomfield" leading the Covid-19 charge, Ardern said.

She said working with him has been a "real honour".

Ardern urged Kiwis to remember the rules of level 3.

'Our goal is elimination. That doesn't mean eradication'

Asked if NZ was on the brink of elimination, Bloomfield said "it gives us confidence that we have achieved out goal of elimination".

But he said testing will continue to identify new cases.

He said the ministry will be "quite systematic" when it comes to any new testing.

"Our goal is elimination. That doesn't mean eradication."

Ardern said she was confident the country had achieved that goal.

"We're not going to reduce our vigilance one bit," Bloomfield added.

In fact, he said people's vigilance needed to increase at level 3.

"We may well reach zero," Ardern said, adding that it was likely there would still be a small number of new cases.

"This does not mean we have failed."

Transtasman bubble?

In terms of the transtasman bubble, Ardern said that was something she was talking about with Australian PM Scott Morrison.

But we're not there yet, Ardern said.

It's something officials are working on, she confirmed.

She said it was "very likely" that NZ citizens in Australia can come home soon.

"That is something we can consider," she said, but added it needed to be done safely.

Asked if marae could be used to house some people who were homeless at the moment, Ardern said the Government would continue to work with Māori on this issue.

Bloomfield said hospitals in level 3 would start easing into elective surgeries.

But it would be done safely, he said.

Bloomfield said that "under no circumstances" should people be injecting themselves with disinfectant.

Ardern did not want to comment on US President Donald Trump's comments made a few days ago.

But she said she was not worried about New Zealanders doing this and there has been no reported cases of people doing this here.

When Bloomfield was asked about it, he was stunned into silence for several seconds.

Covid 19 coronavirus: The number of coronavirus cases is up, should we be worried?
Covid-19 coronavirus: Nine new cases of coronavirus, no deaths as NZ heads for alert level 3
Covid 19 coronavirus: Finance Minister condemns businessman 'profiting' from wage subsidy scheme
Son's diary of mother's last days with Covid-19 coronavirus: 'Goodbye, Mum. I love you'

Today's update came as the number of new Covid-19 cases has remained in single digits for more than a week now.

There were nine new cases confirmed yesterday and no new Covid-19 related deaths.

Despite the optimistic numbers, both Bloomfield and Ardern have warned against complacency.

"Our marathon will take patience and endurance but we need to finish what we started," Ardern told the Herald yesterday.

Bloomfield said that as the country prepares to move to alert level 3 on Tuesday morning, it's really important not to "slacken off the effort".

After more than four weeks at alert level 4, at 11.59pm tonight New Zealand will shift into level 3.

The country will stay at this alert level for at least two weeks.

Ardern has previously warned that level 3 and level 4 are quite similar and people need to remain vigilant.

One of the major differences between the two alert levels is access to takeaways and stores which operate a click-and-collect system.

Fast-food outlets have been preparing for the influx of customers come Tuesday.

As New Zealand comes out of level 4 lockdown, there are still a number of countries around the world which have heavy quarantine restrictions.

There have been 2.95 million cases of Covid-19 worldwide, with more than 200,000 deaths.

So far, 861,000 people have recovered – less than a third of the number of people who have the virus.

But in New Zealand, the recovery rate is almost 80 per cent.

Bloomfield is expected to reveal that New Zealand's number of active cases has again fallen. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website