61 new Covid-19 cases

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Director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay has revealed there are 47 new confirmed cases and 14 probable cases of Covid-19, bringing the New Zealand total to 708.

Dr McElnay said there were 14 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including two in intensive care who were in a stable condition.

There were no new deaths.

She said the decreasing numbers of new cases was “encouraging”, but it was too early to read much into the decline.

Testing was being ramped up and would likely reveal more cases.

Getting 5000 tests a day would be ideal and that could happen when more labs are brought on, she said.

She said work was ongoing to procure more ventilators.

There were about 500 ventilators in public hospitals and about 250 more in private hospitals, and more were being ordered from overseas.

The number of tests was plateauing, she said.

She conceded that there was a lot of uncertainty around the current 1 per cent of community transmission, which was criticised as “meaningless” yesterday by epidemiologist Sir David Skegg.

Dr McElnay said there was still a strong link to overseas travel, with just over half of the cases reporting overseas travel.

About 1% of cases were due to community transmission.

A new case definition for testing would be issued today, she said.

“But we do rely on clinical judgement at all times.”

Anyone with respiratory symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should now be tested regardless of whether they had been overseas or in close contact with a confirmed case.

About 1843 tests per day were being conducted in the past week, with daily capacity at about 3700 tests.

More testing capacity is being added, she said.

A number of clusters, or outbreaks from connected cases, have sprung up, McElnay said.

She said in those clusters, close contacts needed to be identified so get better control of the spread of the virus.

She apologised unreservedly for breaching the privacy of two people with Covid-19 connected to clusters yesterday in a press release.

“Staying home saves lives.”

Civil Defence Emergency Management director Stuart-Black thanked Māori for their contribution to helping fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

“They are connected across all levels of the Covid-19 response.”

She said the first charter flight taking New Zealanders returning from overseas from Auckland to their respective homes around the country had left, and there would be more flights in coming days.

Those people are required to self-isolate.

The national state of emergency was extended yesterday, and Stuart-Black said that was necessary because each time it is declared, it expires after seven days.

The expiry was a safeguard, and states of national emergency can be extended as needed.

The state of national emergency was independent of the Covid-19 alert level system, she said, adding that some people had been confused.

Stuart-Black said the emergency powers had been used a number of times so far, including stopping people doing on-essential activities.

“Staying home saves lives.”

She said most New Zealanders continue to comply with the lockdown rules.

Some road obstructions had been in place to keep neighbourhoods safe, and police had been providing advice, she said.

Southern DHB has most cases

Yesterday the New Zealand total reached 647 cases with 48 new confirmed and 10 probable cases revealed.

Of the that 98 are in the Southern District Health Board region, which is the most of any DHB area and one more than in Auckland and 12 more than Waitemata.

It comes as more than 70 staff of Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital have now been tested for Covid-19, after a second nurse at the hospital was diagnosed with the pandemic disease.

The nurse was one of 15 new Covid-19 confirmed or probable cases in the Southern region yesterday.

Adding to those numbers was confirmation of a new cluster of eight cases linked to a wedding reception in Bluff.

The South’s other significant cluster, the World Hereford Conference held in Queenstown, has been linked to 24 cases, including five new cases yesterday.

The SDHB said yesterday a nurse working at Lakes had tested positive in what was believed to be a case of community transmission.

As a result, all 74 staff who had worked at Lakes Hospital in the past two weeks had now been tested for Covid-19, an SDHB spokeswoman said.

Only the emergency department remains open in the main building and maternity is functioning from another building.

“Patients requiring hospital admission will be transferred to another facility in the district.

“Yesterday, the only two patients in Lakes Hospital were discharged home following the decision to undertake extensive cleaning of the hospital.”

Otago Daily Times and NZ Herald