NZ lockdown – day 33: One new case, but one further coronavirus death

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New Zealand's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield ... "Around 80 percent of our cases are now recovered." Image: RNZ/Pool/Getty

New Zealand has just one new confirmed case of covid-19 coronavirus, and four new probable cases, the Health Ministry has revealed. But Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there had been one more death due to the virus, bringing the total to 19.

He said the latest victim was a woman in her 90s, who was a resident at St Margaret’s Rest Home in Auckland.

New Zealand is set to move from the full lockdown to alert level 3 at 11.59pm tonight, reducing restrictions on businesses and schooling.

READ MORE: Al Jazeera oronavirus live updates – Italy to loosen lockdown from May 4

Dr Bloomfield said the latest victim was a woman in her 90s, who was a resident at St Margaret’s Rest Home in Auckland.

She had underlying health conditions and was part of a group from the rest home who had been transferred to Waitakere Hospital.

He said the overall numbers of cases in New Zealand had dropped by one.

Today’s New Zealand coronavirus briefing. Video: RNZ News

“In the context of our overall total, six cases which were previously probable have been reclassified as either still under investigation or not a case. So that means our current national total is now 1469, and that’s a net reduction of one.”

Seven people in hospital
Dr Bloomfield said 1180 people had now recovered from Covid-19, an increase of 38 on yesterday.

“This means around 80 percent of our cases are now recovered.

He said there were seven people in hospital, including one person in ICU in Middlemore.

There remain 16 significant clusters in the country, and one case in Tauranga still being investigated.

“This is a tricky virus and that’s why we’re not going to reduce our vigilance one bit. If anything we need to increase our vigilance because that will directly impact when we can move down to alert levels further,” Dr Bloomfield said.

Speaking at the same briefing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “Welcome to the final day of covid-19 alert level 4.”

Today is the 33rd and final day of lockdown at the highest alert level.

‘We have done it together’
“It’s been nearly five weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have seemed impossible, but we did and we have done it together,” the Prime Minister said.

She said testing had grown from zero to the capacity to perform 8000 tests per day, one of the highest rates of testing per capita.

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Graphic: RNZ news

Ardern said earlier modelling from Professor Shaun Hendy showed New Zealand could have faced up to 1000 new cases per day if measures were not taken.

“We will never know what would actually have happened without our level four restrictions, but we can look overseas and see that this devastating scenario has played out in many other countries.

“We have avoided the worst. Tragically what we have been unable to stop is the loss of 19 New Zealanders to covid-19 … we send [their families] our love in their time of loss.”

She said there was no widespread community transmission now in New Zealand and “we have won that battle”.

“To succeed we must hunt down the last few cases of the virus. This is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

May need longer level 3 period
She said level 3 was not and could not be the same as a return to pre-covid life, and New Zealand may need to remain at alert level 3 for longer than two weeks if required.

“We can only do this if we all continue to pull together, and secondly I will not risk the gains we have made and the health of New Zealanders, so if we have to remain at level 3, we will.”

Ardern said the country may well reach zero cases but may then see pockets rising up and the key was to have zero tolerance in terms of maintaining restrictions to counteract this.

“I can’t emphasise this enough. There are new risks going into level 3. Please keep your distance to workmates as much as possible,” Ardern said.

Ardern said the government was keeping in mind the possibility of opening up travel between New Zealand and Australia or other Pacific countries, but “we’re not there yet”.

With Parliament resuming, the daily covid-19 joint updates will not be as regular, she said.

She thanked Dr Bloomfield for his service during this time, and described working with the health official as a real honour.

‘NZ lucky to have Dr Bloomfield’
“I consider New Zealand to be very lucky to have a public servant of Dr Bloomfield’s calibre leading the health response. His background in public health has meant I consider New Zealand to be among those countries who are lucky to have the expertise in leading the response. One that considers the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders in every respect.”

An app to help the country’s contact tracing efforts is in the works, with the Ministry of Health revealing today it would be ready within two weeks.

Ardern said she remained sceptical about what the contact tracing app is going to achieve because it requires very high – voluntary – uptake.

“Our big focus has been on getting our in-person contact tracing right because that is what we will all be relying on … places like Singapore, the uptake there has been under 20 percent. So my view is we cannot rely on this and we can’t place all our eggs in one basket.”

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported another nine cases – all linked to known infections – with no new deaths.

  • This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.
  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP – don’t show up at a medical centre.
  • Follow RNZ’s coronavirus newsfeed
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