COVID-19 media update, 1 April

News article

01 April 2020

The All of Government COVID-19 National Response will provide an update at 1.00 pm today.

View video of the media briefing.

Update summary

Latest case numbers, hospital admissions and other information is available in our April 1 media release.

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay confirmed there are 47 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14 new probable cases. There are no additional deaths to report.

Just over half of all cases reported still show a strong link to overseas travel.

We currently are saying 1 percent of cases are community transmission and we calculate that from the information we are getting from cases. There’s a lot of uncertainty about that number because we still don’t have all the information we need about those cases.

The case definition, which is used as a guide for clinical practitioners for diagnosis and testing, has changed to allow anyone with respiratory symptoms which are consistent with COVID-19 disease to be considered for testing regardless of travel history or contact with a confirmed case. This will result in more testing being done.

Dr McElnay said the decrease in confirmed cases over recent days was encouraging but it was much to early to say what this means. We expect to see case numbers increase since the case definition has been broadened and we do more testing.

Self-isolation measures have been taken ahead of data showing increased cases, and that was the right thing to do.

More laboratories able to process tests for COVID-19 are coming on stream and this will increase our ability to increase the daily number of tests. This will give us a better picture of what’s happening across New Zealand.

Our testing capacity is about 3700 and we are aiming to do 5000 tests a day in coming weeks although this number may change as we develop a broader surveillance plan for COVID-19. The number of tests being done each day also depends on the number of people presenting for testing and on clinicians ordering tests. So we don’t know at this stage whether fewer people are presenting for testing, or whether there are fewer people with disease.

We need to take a longer lens looking at testing to determine the average amount of testing being done.

Increasing our testing is one way we can get better certainty about what that figure. In the next couple of weeks I think we will have a much better assessment of the level of community transmission bearing in mind that we are already in a Level 4 lockdown, which will reduce transmission.

As part of a surveillance plan, we will be identifying all the information sources that allow us to truly say what is happening with COVID-19 in New Zealand. That may include a community survey in some areas. Random testing has not been excluded.

PPE is being distributed as a priority to health workers. I think we have to recognise that there are priority groups and it’s important our frontline health workers not only are safe but feel safe. PPE is just one infection prevention control measures, along with physical distancing and hand washing.

Issues around availability of flu vaccine are around distribution rather than supply. The Ministry is working very closely with practices, Primary Health Organisations and immunisation coordinators who can move that vaccine around to where it is needed.

Speakers:

  • Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management – update on COVID-19 national response
  • Dr Caroline McElnay, Director of Public Health – health update.

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