PM urges businesses to think ‘what next’

Ardern says the role of planning for moving out of lockdown is not the Government's alone

Businesses should plan how they will operate in an environment where intensive contact tracing would be needed post-lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today.

The Government was working on additional guidance for the move to Level 3 to aid that, she said.

"What I would ask though is that it's not Government alone that has a role to play in that.

"I ask all businesses to look at the alert level framework, think about how your business could successfully operate within each," she said.

"We will need to, for many months to come, contact trace all New Zealanders who come into contact with one another and workplaces have a role to play in that."

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield added 89 cases of Covid-19 to the country's total, bringing that to 1039 confirmed and probable cases. 

Bloomfield also released the ethnic breakdown of Covid-19 cases: European (75 percent), Asian (8.3 percent), Maori (7.6 percent), and Pacific (3.3 percent). 

Of the total number of confirmed cases, 49 percent had a link to international travel.

Known community transmission was still running at 1 percent but that could grow to 18 percent of cases as investigations progressed, he said.

Bloomfield said three people were in the ICU - one in Wellington and two in Auckland. Two patients were in critical condition. 

Avoided 'exponential growth'

Ardern said the numbers showed we had avoided the exponential growth that overwhelmed health systems in many other countries. 

A doubling of cases every few days overseas had seen relatively modest initial case totals balloon into thousands of cases within a matter of days. 

"I'm aware though that every time we see new cases it may be hard to see success, but we can be sure that what we have done as a country since the very beginning of Covid-19 is making a difference," Ardern said. 

"Now what we need to do is see those numbers start to climb down," she said. 

Ardern pointed to the predictions of economist Rodney Jones.

"This is modelling that I have seen over the last few weeks and continued to monitor closely. Especially as it has been accurate in predicting New Zealand's case numbers," Ardern said.

"On the eve of our lockdown, his modelling predicted we had the potential to face as many as 4000 cases this weekend," she said.

"We're instead at just over 1000. Those 3000 fewer cases shows the difference cumulative action can make."

Contact tracing

A 190-strong team has tracked down 4909 close contacts of people infected with Covid-19. 

The National Close Contact Service (NCCS) was based at the Ministry of Health in Wellington and funded out of a $40m public health package.

Director of Public Health Caroline McEnlay said the centre currently made 2000 calls per day as part of its contact tracing efforts. Seven hundred and two contacts were successfully traced in a single day on Thursday last week. 

"Contact tracing is a vital part of any public health work during an outbreak," McEnlay said.

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