COVID-19 media update, 25 March

News article

25 March 2020

The All of Government COVID-19 National Response provided an update on 25 March 2020.


  • Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management – update on Covid-19 national response
  • Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health – health update
  • Peter Elms, Immigration NZ national manager – border issues update
  • Paul Stocks, Deputy Chief Executive MBIE – essential services update.

Summary of the health update

View video of the media briefing

Comments made by Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health

There are 50 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand as at 9.30 am this morning. 47 were confirmed cases and 3 were probable cases.

In probable cases, the person has returned a negative laboratory result but the clinician treating the person has diagnosed them as a probable case due to their exposure history and clinical symptoms.

We have had 16 probable cases to date. Probable cases are treated as if they were a positive laboratory confirmed case and the actions taken are the same as for confirmed cases - that is self-isolation and active contact tracing.

Therefore, our combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 205.  We will continue to report the total combined confirmed and probable cases each day.

More details of the new cases, including the probable cases, will be provided via our website shortly and updated as new details emerge.

There are 22 individuals that we can confirm are recovered from COVID-19.  We will update this number daily.

We have six people in hospital with COVID-19 - all in a stable condition. Three are in Wellington hospital, one in Rotorua and two in Waikato. None are in Intensive Care Unit.

Three patients treated for COVID-19 were discharged yesterday, one each from Lakes District hospital in Queenstown, Waikato and Thames hospitals.

Our laboratories are working to process and report test results as quickly as possible.  Yesterday we processed 1421 tests around the country. The total number of tests processed to date is 9780.

Anyone who has been tested is expected to be in strict self-isolation until advised of the result of their test – that means effectively quarantining themselves from other members of their family.

We continue to test people who need to be tested.

Our public health staff actively investigating and following up on every case they are notified about.

What we are seeing is that the majority still have a link to overseas travel, including being in the same household as someone who has returned from overseas, or they have attended a known event or are part of a cluster of other cases (eg, World Hereford cattle conference in Queenstown) or are close contacts of a confirmed case. Public health staff work fast to follow up clusters of confirmed cases from events.

We have now five confirmed cases within one school in Auckland – Marist College.  The school is closed and has been closed all week.  All students and staff are being managed as close contacts. That means they are in self isolation,  monitored and at home.

Staff and students should not congregate with anyone outside their home, and keep their physical distance from those within their household for this period. There are a number of staff members who are being tested or are about to be tested, as they have symptoms.

We have community transmission in New Zealand. We have confirmed four cases and other cases are suspected. 

We move tonight to Alert level 4 we will continue to see a rise in cases for the next ten days, from people infected before today.  The numbers will continue to increase before they turn around. 

That turnaround will happen if all New Zealanders do what is asked of them. Stay at home, break the chain of transmission and save lives.

I encourage all New Zealanders, as we move to Alert level 4, in particular to look after themselves and to look after others.

Response to question re community transmission: 

  • We’re seeing a handful of cases where we can’t identify where the person got the infection from. We're also seeing at least two clusters at the school and conference. Yes that's a concern and why we have pro-actively moved to Alert Level 4 to break that risk..

Response to questions on PPE: 

  • If someone is not symptomatic the risk is very low, particualry if the close contact is brief and the person is not symptomatic.
  • The use of PPE is required when there is somebody who has clear symptoms, in the treatment of that person and diagnosis. 
  • We have a lot of masks in the country. They are in our hospitals and in other parts of the healthcare system. IF there are supplies running low then we will replenish them. 
  • Hospital staff do not routinely need to wear masks, particularly if there is no risk of them coming into with someone who may have a COVID-19 infection. 
  • When people present at hospital with COVID-19 - and we have only had a small number of people that have required hospital care - then there are very intensive precautions taken to protect staff and others in the hospital.
  • DHBs are the organisations on the ground who have PPE. We are working with DHBs to bring distribution into a national process. We will arrange distribution to others including home support and community support workers, pharmacy, etc.
  • Separately, there will be a process to distribute masks to essential workers who have contact with people, for example supermarket workers. 

Comments re contact tracing:

  • We have been anticipating a big increase in the need for contact tracing. 
  • Public Health Units have some capacity and we have increased that significantly by setting up a dedicated team at the Ministry of Health. 
  • As we go into Alert Level 4 people will be self isolating at home and the number of close contacts for each of our cases will be smaller. So that will help us manage contact tracing.

Comments re GP safety:

  • GPs have moved to doing as many consultations as possible remotely, by phone or video conference. And they will be doing more of that.
  • In every centre there are special clinics being established to assess people with COVID-1 symptoms. This will help reduce the risk to GPs and pharmacy.

Comments re testing:

  • Clinicians have had the opportunity to test people when they are concerned, even when there is no history of overseas travel
  • In recent days we have seen cases where their hasn't been a link to overseas travel
  • We are testing people who are symptomatic and where the clinician exercised their judgement. The test is sensitive and very specific to COVID-19. For the most part, we don’t test asymptomatic people, because they may still have the virus brewing and test negative. 

Comments re Arrivals:

  • We have seen people symptomatic arriving at the airport. Yesterday at Auckland airport, over 100 people were assessed. 35 were tested and eight of those people tested positive. 
  • Because the virus is so wide-spread in other countries around the world we would expect to see that the infections that people have bought back will continue to increase. Moving to Level 4 will help us prevent community transmission.

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