Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown: 40 new cases confirmed today

There are 40 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in New Zealand today.

Health Director General Ashley Bloomfield told reporters there were also three possible new cases.

There were 155 confirmed and probable case cases, and he said the daily count would now include probable cases.

Possible cases have returned negative results, but their history and symptoms indicate they have Covid-19, and they are treated the same as if they have returned a positive result.

Case details will be updated on the Ministry of Health website.

Six cases were in the hospital, and all were stable, and none required ICU treatment.

Bloomfield said there was a case of community transmission in Orewa, which had toured Milford and possibly made contact with a traveler from abroad.

Both he and his partner have tested positive, Bloomfield said.

Meanwhile 12 patients have recovered.

Asked whether loss of sense of smell was a symptom of Covid-19, Bloomfield said it was an incidental finding and researchers followed it to date.

Health workers may need to isolate themselves from their own families if they care for someone suffering from Covid-19.

"I'm sure everyone will try to minimize the risk to their household members, including health workers."

"Anyone who has been tested is expected to be in strict self-isolation until they are notified of the results."

Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown: 40 new cases confirmed today

Six people at the Hereford Conference in Queenstown are now positive, Bloomfield said.

All of the new cases he informed, about one third of the 40 new cases, had links to travel abroad or to close contacts from confirmed cases.

Most cases in New Zealand were still related to overseas travel, he said.

"At this point we are classifying four cases as 'community transmission' - three in Auckland and one in the Wairarapa."

Contact tracing was under way for all of those cases.

He said he was not aware of any confirmed cases among health workers, and there was one confirmed case in an Auckland rest home.

People in the rest home, including staff who may have been exposed, were being looked after in a "bubble".

Aged care residential facilities were told to put in place strict protocols for visiting weeks ago.

More than 900 tests were carried out yesterday, bringing the total to over 8300 tests.

Bloomfield said there was a clear consensus among public health professionals and scientists that moving to alert level 4 sooner rather than later gave New Zealand the best chance to break community transmission.

An increase in testing capacity meant that testing could now take place in a school, for example.

There would be strict rules on visiting people in hospital during the lockdown period, he said.

He said millions more masks were being produced, so he was confident about the personal protection equipment (PPE) stocks in New Zealand.

Education update: 'Difficult task' getting devices to pupils' home

Education Secretary Iona Holsted told reporters that it might be ideal to limit connections to close relatives, while others might need more help.

A child of an important worker who cannot stay at home can have a friend identified in their isolated group to look after the child.

Another example is the caregiver of children with disabilities when caregivers need to rest. The appointed helpers, however, cannot socialize with others, nor can they be people with impaired immunity.

Holsted said the Ministry of Education was working through distance learning logistics, including access to the internet and getting tools for students who didn't have it.

He said bringing the device to the right house was a difficult task at this time because it had to be sent home, not school.

Where the device cannot work, hard copies of school work will be sent, he said.

Some areas have no internet coverage at all, so the ministry works with television and radio services to enter children's homes.

Holsted hopes schools provide online learning, and he said students must use lock-up time to study.

If the locking is extended, the study year will be more disrupted and NZQA will decide how it will affect the study year.

She said options were being looked at for childcare, but older people - including grandparents - and those with compromised immunity were not suitable people to look after kids.

She said police vetting would help ensure childcare services would be appropriate, and there were many ECE workers who could step into nanny roles.

Supermarkets will stay open

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment deputy chief executive Paul Stocks said
"essential" services under alert level 4 were there to provide for the necessities of life, not to bring normalcy to everyday life.

The service must limit the risk of spreading Covid-19.

There are 15 sectors which are considered as services, and they can be seen at covid19.govt.nz.

"We will continue to update the website, and starting at 17:00 today, there will be an 0800 number for companies to call if they are not clear about their essential service status."

He said if a business is not clear about whether they are important, then they might not.

"This is a developing situation."

The essence of life, including supermarkets, will remain open, Stocks said.

The service station will also open, as will the supply chain behind the service.

People who do not have a car will be able to travel by taxi, for example, by sitting in the back seat to maintain physical distance.

Stocks said the government had not yet decided that The Warehouse, which said today would remain open during closure, was an important service.

He warns businesses from claiming that they are important services prematurely.

"We don't want many people to come to retail stores."

Stocks said all communities needed access to food, so dairy companies and corner shops could remain open if they were the only supplies in the more isolated community.

Supermarket workers who make contact with many people must maintain and maintain physical distance, and must isolate themselves when they return home.

Stocks said clarification would be given about whether liquor stores were an important service.

Further work is being carried out and further clarity will be added to the website tonight. "That won't be perfect ... we are in uncharted territory."

Everyone must stay home'

All of Government Controller John Ombler said that the response to Covid-19 was "unprecedented" and staff across the private and public sectors were working on delivering essential services to New Zealanders.

From 11.59pm on Wednesday "everyone must stay at home unless they are working in essential services".

Ombler said that meant no socialising with people outside their households.

He said people could go outside and exercise, but keep 2m away from other people at all times.

"Physical separation, but maintain social connection."

Ombler said maintaining distance was still important while going to the supermarket or pharmacy.

Everyone needed to follow these requirements, and enforcement action would be taken if that did not happen.

He said New Zealanders overseas should make plans in case they couldn't find flights home.

He added that they should not rely solely on Government assistance.

Parliament poised to adjourn for five weeks

Speaker Trevor Mallard said the business committee had met this morning and agreed to have a special motion in Parliament tomorrow to establish a special select committee to run for four to five weeks at least, to be chaired by the Opposition leader or his nominee, and would have a majority of Opposition MPs on it.

It would have special powers to send for people and for papers. It will only meet remotely, and its members will not share a room.

There will be more time for Government ministers to answer questions tomorrow, and then an adjournment motion until April 28.

Mallard said having MPs flying around the country and interacting with the public would "not be a good thing", and the new committee would enable the Opposition to "effectively interrogate" ministers or public servants on their actions around the pandemic.

Those meetings will be publicly broadcast, he said.

"The witnesses will be interviewed remotely, but all of that will be available to the public."

Parliament would decide tomorrow, if not today, for all select committee report backs to be deferred, and each select committee can decide to extend the period for public submissions.

Mallard said there was no point having legislation back in Parliament because the legislative programme had been suspended.

"If Parliament is not sitting, legislation will not be progressed."

He noted that parliaments in Australia, Canada and the UK were all being suspended: "I think we know these are not normal times."

Legislation that was considered important, such as the Government's second tranche of gun law reforms, were less important relative to stopping a deadly virus, Mallard said.

He said there will be 11 MPs on the special committee, including five National MPs, an Act MP, three Labour MPs, one NZ First MP and one Green MPs.

Parliament will resume on April 28, even if the lockdown was extended from the current four weeks into the end of April.

Very few MPs were expected to come to Parliament tomorrow for the last sitting before it was adjourned, he said.



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