76 new Covid-19 cases, two police officers test positive

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. PHOTO: NZ HERALD

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has revealed 76 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 as the Government updates its response to the pandemic.

Dr Bloomfield said there were now 589 confirmed and probable cases and 12 people were in hospital.

Two were in intensive care and three people were expected to be discharged soon.

One person was in Dunedin Hospital, with the rest in hospitals around New Zealand including four in Wellington Hospital.

One probable case previously reported was now considered a confirmed case.

He said only 2% of the 455 cases it had properly tracked were considered to have spread by community transmission. That equated to 10 cases.

Most of the rest were travel-related.

Bloomfield said people over 65, frontline health workers, pregnant women and those with respiratory conditions would have priority for flu vaccinations, and asked other to please wait.

“You should not be seeking a vaccination or expecting to be called until at least mid April.”

He said 18,000 vaccinations had been distributed and there were plenty of vaccinations in the country.

Bloomfield urged people to sign up to www.info.flutracker.net to report flu symptoms.

4200 reports of Kiwis flouting lockdown rules

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the vast majority of people were complying well with lockdown conditions, but some were still flouting them.

“We have tourists who think it’s OK to drive around the country in their campervans. It’s not OK.”

He said three people have been arrested for persistent breaches.

Two were taken into custody and released later. One was still in custody, mainly because of other ‘outstanding matters.”

Two police officers had tested positive for Covid-19 and were at home and being supported.

He said one of the police officers with Covid-19 had been on active duty and contact tracing was underway.

He said the three arrested had been warned in the past, but were released without prosecution.

He said 1000 of the reports of non-compliance related to business, others were more general such as reports of a lot of people gathering in a particular area.

He said at the moment, it was better to get out and advise of the rules. He emphasised that people who were tourists should not be moving around the country. “I appeal to those tourists, stay where you are.”

If there were persistent breaches, action would be taken.

He said checkpoints were not a part of the operating model although some were taking place.

He was also working with those communities which were trying to set up their own checkpoints.

Bush said he was surprised how many people were not keeping social distance while walking around Oriental Parade in Wellington last night, saying some were clearly not in their bubble.

“If people aren’t compliant we are going to have to re-visit this.”

“You must keep your distance.”

He said police had seen a small rise in family violence, but in the last few days that had reduced slightly.

“We have to stay the course on that.” He said there had been a massive decline in public violence, and people being arrested and placed into custody more generally.

First death yesterday

Yesterday the number of Covid-19 cases climbed to 514 and New Zealand was told of its first Covid-19 death.

It has been reported today that the West Coast woman’s children also lost their father last year.

Anne Guenole, in her 70s, was today identified as the first Covid-19 related death in this country.

She died yesterday morning at Grey Base Hospital, in Greymouth, after it was first thought she had a strain of the flu.

Her death comes just a few months after her husband, Peter Guenole, died unexpectedly last August. He was in his 80th year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday was a “very sad day” – but news of the first Covid-19 death brought home why New Zealand moved to alert level four.

“This is devastating news,” she said.

South hardest hit

A further 31 cases were identified in the Southern District Health Board region at the weekend, taking the regional total to 70 — second only nationwide to Auckland.

On a per head of population basis, the South is hardest hit by Covid-19.

There are 21.2 cases per 100,000 in the southern region; the second-highest rate is in Wellington’s Capital and Coast which has 15.4 cases per 100,000.

Data released by the SDHB yesterday of the 69 confirmed cases revealed the spread of Covid-19 in the region.

Dunedin had the most cases (25), followed by Queenstown Lakes (24).

The remaining confirmed cases were in Invercargill (8), Central Otago (5), Clutha (3), Southland (2), Waimate (1) and Gore (1), and there was one probable case.

Health Minister David Clark said he expected the number of cases of Covid-19, which across New Zealand yesterday stood at 514, to continue to rise no matter how many precautions people took.

‘We may need to stay in level 4 longer’ – Bloomfield

Just how long the country stays under complete lockdown depends on whether or not more coronavirus cases arise still.

It also depends on people sticking to the rules and staying indoors – and yet another plea is being made to the public to take the current situation seriously.

Dr Bloomfield earlier today said the planned four weeks of lockdown may well be extended.

“If we’ve still got isolated outbreaks that we can manage quite easily, then that may allow us to get down to level 3.

“If we’re still seeing new cases popping up around the place, then that would give us a sense that we may need to stay in level 4 somewhat longer.”

Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning that health authorities were now working to figure out what was the criteria – not just the number of cases – and nature of transmission.

They were also looking at how the alert level 4 lockdown would impact the number of hospitalisations and the potential number of deaths related to Covid-19.

It was still too early to identify a trend of those at this stage, he said.

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