Today we have 14 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed by laboratory test in New Zealand.
Locations are: Auckland 5, Northland 1, Christchurch 1, New Plymouth 2, Waikato 3 (including 1 in Hamilton), Tauranga 1, Dunedin 1.
Close contacts of all these cases are being followed up.
11 of these new cases have a history of international travel. One is a close contact of a confirmed case. Two were at the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown earlier in the month which had a range of New Zealand and international delegates.
Just over 1200 laboratory tests were carried out yesterday, bringing the total number of completed tests to 6000.
Community transmission status
There were two cases announced yesterday where community transmission could not be ruled out. Our further investigations of these two cases have still not identified a firm link to overseas travel, says Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
"For clarity, community transmission is when we cannot confirm exactly where the infection came from. As we investigate cases, close contact tracing continues to grow our understanding of the infection pathway and we can then communicate with anybody who may have been a close or casual contact and ensure appropriate action is taken. We can also then update local communities about events or situations where contact may have occurred.
"I understand that people in those areas will be concerned about the risk of transmission so I also ask that you keep up good hygiene practices, physical distancing and seek advice if you have symptoms."
Details for each of the cases mentioned today, and the tally of confirmed cases, will be on the Ministry of Health website as soon as they are finalised. The website will continue to be updated as further information is received.
Dr Bloomfield provided an update on the two cruise ships, the Ruby Princess and Celebrity Solstice, which recently visited New Zealand and both of which had cases of COVID-19 confirmed after they left New Zealand.
"We are asking any passengers who left the ships during their stay to New Zealand to self-isolate for 14 days since they last had contact with other ship passengers and be aware of symptoms and seek advice if they do develop symptoms.Details of the movement of the ships can be found on our website. As mentioned yesterday we are also in direct contact with New Zealanders who were on those vessels, asking them to self-isolate and register with Healthline."
Hereford conference in Queenstown
Dr Bloomfield says public health authorities are following up delegates to a cattle conference held from the 9 to 13 of March in Queenstown, where four attendees, including two New Zealanders, have tested positive for COVID-19.
"Close contacts of those cases are being asked to self-isolate and other attendees at the conference, who are now considered as close contacts, have also been contacted and required to self-isolate for 14 days since they were in contact with people who were at that conference.
"Southern District Health Board is doing the tracking and tracing work on this, with support from the Ministry of Health."
Alert Level 2
Alert Level remains at 2.
"You’ll note that as part of Level 2, we are asking people over 70 and those with pre-existing conditions, such as chronic respiratory disease - including severe asthma, bronchiectasis and COPD - and those who are immunocompromised, to stay at home.
"A message to the over 70s. We know many of you are fit and healthy and living active lives but the older we are, the less our immune system is able to fight off this virus and we have seen from overseas that older people are at more risk of serious complications. Please heed advice to stay at home and ask friends and family, particularly children, not to visit. For the moment this might mean talking to family on phone, Skype or other methods."
Today's cases bring the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Zealand to a total of 66 (not 67, as previously mentioned) . Also please note earlier reference to a case in Coromandel has been updated to Waikato. There are no cases in Coromandel at this time.
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