There should be no stigma attached to anyone who has Covid-19, says director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.
Bloomfield made a plea for Kiwis to be inclusive as he revealed there were no new coronavirus cases for the 12th day in a row.
There is still one active case, an Auckland woman in her 50s, but she was first reported as a suspected case on May 1.
If the string of no new cases continues, New Zealand will be in a good position to move to level 1 next week. The country has been in level 2 for 21 days.
Bloomfield had advised that New Zealand should stay at level 2 for 28 days - or two incubation cycles.
"All the signs are good," he said on the move to level 1.
He said it was "hugely satisfying" to see 12 days of no cases to report.
There had been a significant hit in the economy, but being able to come out of lockdown faster and sooner would see a quicker recovery.
"The reason we are in this situation is that everybody did what was asked of them in the lockdown and we are reaping the benefits of that."
Bloomfield had been contacted by people who had recovered but were struggling to be accepted.
"Please be kind. Make them feel part of our society. There is no stigma around having had Covid-19."
"Please be inclusive," he said.
There were 1262 tests yesterday, bringing the total to 284,525 tests overall, Bloomfield said.
He repeated his plea for people to use the Covid tracing app.
He said businesses getting a QR code had been streamlined, and businesses could find it on the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment website.
He said the testing numbers had dropped over the long holiday weekend, as had happened in the past.
Asked about photos of him next to people at a restaurant, he said he was asked to participate "momentarily" in a photo.
"It was very fleeting."
He said it was similar to photos that were taken of him at Government House.
Test, test, test
Moving to level 1, Bloomfield said, testing would be a focus.
Moving from level 3 to 2 involved 30,000 tests, including asymptomatic people, and one Auckland Airport worker had tested positive.
Bloomfield said five district health boards had still tested people without symptoms in the past week, but over the coming weeks with the move into winter, the focus will be on people with respiratory symptoms.
People with symptoms should be tested early, and testing was free.
Targeted testing would also focus on the border, he said.
Border measures, case isolation and contact tracing were all key pillars of keeping Covid-19 contained, and the pandemic was continuing overseas "apace", he said.
"We cannot afford to let our guard down."
He said 1 million flu vaccinations had now been administered.
He congratulated the 19 people in the health sector who were on the Queen's Birthday honours list.
In particular he singled out Dame Karen Poutasi.
He said he wasn't concerned about the drop-off in testing numbers in recent days, given it was the holiday period and also due to the low rates of flu symptoms because of the lockdown.
Additional testing in the past four weeks also gave a good insight into any undetected pockets of Covid-19.
"We haven't found any."
Testing numbers will increase as people get respiratory symptoms over winter, he said.
Testing at the border will start from next week, he said, including testing everyone travelling to the country - not just those going into quarantine.
"We really want to make sure our border is water-tight."
He said Cabinet will decide whether to move to alert level 1, and he said it was "very encouraging" to have 12 days of no reported cases.
Elimination was an ongoing process, he said, rather than a point in time. "It may well be there is no domestic transmission or domestic onshore infections of Covid-19, but our elimination strategy is ongoing."
The ministry's elimination strategy includes a definition of 28 days since a case of community transmission has recovered, he said.
He said there had been no push-back from Air New Zealand about testing at the border, and he said he was confident in the current measures for international aircrew.
"It's a conversation. We're not dictating to them."
The ministry was looking at testing aircrew twice within a 14-day period, he said, and the ministry was reviewing how to mitigate risks for cargo crew staff coming to New Zealand.
He said the contact tracing was reliable, and nine of the 12 public health units are moving to a national data system.
The ministry was currently hitting the target of isolating 80 per cent of close contacts within 48 hours of getting a positive lab result.
He said some Pacific nations had no Covid-19 cases, including the Cook Islands and Niue.
He said GPs will be alert to lingering effects or symptoms in recovered patients, though they had not been asked to look specifically for that.
He was confident the Covid tracing app wasn't going to end up allowing mass surveillance.
"We're doing way less surveillance than most social media platforms are."
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is today outlining what life under alert level 1 will look like.
New Zealand has been at alert level 2 for three weeks, and on Monday Cabinet will consider whether the country is ready for a move to level 1, which could start on Wednesday next week.
Ardern had initially marked June 22 for D-Day to decide about moving to level 1, but she had left the door open to move the date forward.
Yesterday she said D-Day will be on Monday, following advice from Bloomfield at the weekend that the virus' long tail had not lasted as long as expected.
Level 1 is generally a return to normal life, but with control measures at the border.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Newstalk ZB yesterday that if the Covid curve remained crushed, the country was in a good position to move to level 1 next week.
But if a case of community transmission emerged, the Government would consult advisers about whether it was safe lower the alert level, he said.
"We'd obviously want to look at that alongside the economic ramifications, how we are in terms in compliance, we weigh all of those things up together.
"As long as we keep going on the path that we're on, then we should be in a really good position to move to level 1."