Covid-19

Covid-19: Total tops 450

New Zealand has 78 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and five probable cases, the Government has announced today, taking the total to 451. Two people are critically unwell in intensive care units.

It was also confirmed a small number of Air New Zealand staff have the virus.

Civil Defence Emergency Management director Sarah Stuart-Black said 12 people are in hospital and two are in intensive care, including one on a ventilator. Twelve are in hospital – three Wellington Regional Hospital, two in Nelson, two in Whangarei, and one each in Auckland, Waikato, Taranaki, Dunedin and Greymouth.

Over the last seven days, the average daily test number is 1613. Stuart-Black said overseas travel and links to confirmed cases continue to be the most significant infection path. She didn’t have details of how many cases now involve community transmission.

An anonymised Air New Zealand spokesperson says via email that eight of its employees have tested positive for Covid-19. One has since recovered.

“All eight employees work on our long haul fleet and operated sectors to Los Angeles or London. They are at home and all appropriate MoH contact tracing and other procedures have been undertaken. None of these staff have flown since being diagnosed positive.”

Stuart-Black said across all industries and businesses it was important to take a precautionary approach. “Our baseline advice is if in doubt self-isolate.”

There are five known clusters of the virus, Stuart-Black said: Marist College in Auckland, the World Hereford conference in Queenstown, the Ruby Princess cruise ship, a wedding in Wellington, and people who returned from a trip to New York.

Asked about hospital preparations, she said: “The hospitals have been ramping up, obviously, over the recent weeks to be able to cope with any patients needing that kind of respiratory support, including in intensive care beds. We’re continuing the ongoing effort to purchase and make sure that those products are being provided to New Zealand.”

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said yesterday it might take between seven and 10 days for the infection rate to turn around.

“I’ve heard today that some people were playing touch rugby and frisbee in parks. That’s just stupid.” – John Ombler

All of Government Controller John Ombler – who said Bloomfield was having a well-deserved day off – said the Red Cross was being sent to hotels to help with welfare issues involving quarantined people who have recently arrived in the country. There is capacity to accommodate people who arrive from overseas without an isolation plan, he said.

“I’ve heard about a lack of food for some returning New Zealanders and that’s not good enough, and we’re working on it. Hotels are required to feed guests and we’re discussing issues with them.”

Ombler said some international arrivals are taking regional flights specifically for their repatriation. Under certain conditions, new arrivals are able to drive for up to five hours to get home. It has to be in a private vehicle with one driver and only two or three passengers, ensuring sufficient space from one another.

There are no welcome home hugs, and there would be 14 days of strict self isolation at home, Ombler said, adding: “That will be checked”.

Domestic travel is banned except for essential business and workers, he said. “This means you can’t drive or fly or take a bus or train out of town.”

The country was adapting quickly to a new way of life, he said, two days into a national shutdown.

“We’re very pleased with how people in New Zealand have responded this week.”

Police said most people were following the new rules but there were isolated incidents of people congregating.

“I’ve heard today that some people were playing touch rugby and frisbee in parks. That’s just stupid. People need to stop doing that sort of thing. Covid can transfer on a frisbee from one person to another. With touch rugby it’s quite obvious. Please don’t do it.”

People can only leave home for essential reasons and physical exercise by yourself or people in your house, and they have to stay in their own neighbourhoods. Ombler urged the public not to go swimming or surfing, hunting or fishing – “don’t do anything that may result in you requiring help if you end up getting into trouble.”

If people are not complying with isolation rules, and the need to stay two metres apart, the first port of call is to talk politely with them, he said. After that, if necessary, call police on on 105. But save 111 calls for real emergencies, he said.

Supermarket supply chains are working, he said. “Try to avoid long lines at the supermarket over the weekend by shopping during the week, shop for essentials only.”

Respect physical distancing, he said, pack your own bags, and wash hands thoroughly on returning home.

“We’re all in this together but let’s keep up the great work and break the chain of infection of Covid-19.”

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