New Zealand has 36 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today.
This takes the total number of cases in this country to 102.
“I would expect to see more cases each day,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters this afternoon.
Bloomfield people who were continuing to go to bars, cafes and restaurants and treating Covid-19 as a bad flu should “get with the programme” and play their part in helping to restrict the virus’ spread.
There were 1100-1500 tests being done each day. About 1-2 per cent of those were coming back positive – which was comparatively low compared to other countries suggesting our rate of testing is reasonably high, he said,
Some DHBs have opened drive-through clinics for people to get tested. That doesn’t mean people should turn up to get swabbed if they feel like it – they will not automatically be tested.
Over half of today’s 36 new cases were directly linked to overseas travel – people who have returned to New Zealand recently.
Most of the remainder are close contacts of previously concerned cases or associated with events where there were confirmed cases.
There still remain two where it’s not clear where the infection came from.
The two cases of suspected community transmission are in Auckland and Wairarapa. The Auckland case is a different one from that discussed on Friday – Friday’s case has since been linked to that person’s partner.
The Prime Minister will update the alert level later today.
Contact tracing for all cases is ongoing.
Bloomfield said authorities were expecting to find these cases because so many people were returning from around the world from places where Covid-19 was common.
Just over 1200 lab tests were carried out yesterday – bringing the total conducted to more than 7400.
While most cases are still people who have come from overseas, an increasing number of cases were close contacts of those people, Bloomfield said.
He added that hygiene practices, physical distancing and staying home if you are unwell are becoming increasingly important.
Healthline’s capacity is continuing to increase – the average waiting time yesterday was 30 minutes, Bloomfield said. More staff have been brought on board and other government helplines have also been linked in.
Healthline should only be used to ask about your health. If you have an urgent medical issue, call your GP and get advice there, Bloomfield stressed.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be updating the public on alert levels at 1.30pm today, he said.
Hospitals now restricting visitors
DHBs have plans in place on how to scale down activity – especially elective operations and outpatient appointments – to free up capacity and staff if more people need hospital level care.
That doesn’t mean people won’t be seen if they need care – but many outpatient appointments could be done via phone calls rather than face to face.
Most hospitals are also restricting visitors, he said.
Bloomfield said a stocktake of NZ’s ICU capacity will show how many beds the country has – it also shows the country can triple the number of beds available. The information will be published on the ministry’s website shortly.
Regarding the latest modelling from Auckland University, which shows many thousands of people could die without containment of the virus, Bloomfield said: “We have acted very strongly on a whole range of measures and will continue to … with the express purpose of avoiding that worst-case scenario.”
New Zealand was looking closely at different testing options, including new technology which could speed up the time to get a diagnosis.
“Nothing is off the table,” Bloomfield said.
There are about 180 fully staffed ICU beds. With current ventilator capacity, that can be trebled.
More staff are also being trained and more ventilators being sourced.
Concerns have been raised about the amount of personal protective equipment (PPEs) available for health workers such as GPs.
Bloomfield said there is “a lot of PPE” – the important thing is that it’s at the places where it’s needed.”
Having dedicated community-based testing places would help with that, as would GPs moving to more online consultations.
The Government is looking at options for quarantine – whether people coming into the country or others in the country that authorities weren’t confident would self-isolate.
Whangaparaoa is a good starting point for how that might work.
Bloomfield thanked the wider all-of-government team working on the Covid-19 response, and to all health professionals.
“They are incredibly dedicated, highly professional and aiming to look after New Zealanders – if you could look after them too I’d be very grateful.”
Yesterday there were 14 new cases – the highest one-day rise yet – bringing the total number infected to 66, with four additional probable cases.
All are in self-isolation, with close contacts being identified and followed up.
The alert level yesterday remained at 2.
Nearly all of the confirmed cases are linked to overseas travel or an already confirmed case.
But two – one in Auckland and one in Wairarapa – have no firm links to either and officials have not ruled out community transmission.
Bloomfield said he understood people in the areas where those two people lived would be concerned but asked they continue good hygiene practices and maintain social distancing while investigations continued.
Any passengers who disembarked from the Celebrity Solstice and the Ruby Princess in New Zealand should also be self-isolating.