9 Mar 2020

Covid-19 testing expanded as NZ cases stays at five

From Checkpoint, 5:19 pm on 9 March 2020

There have been no more confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, but health officials are ramping up their efforts to stamp out the virus.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says that includes wider testing of people who may be suspected of having it.

As part of that, Dr Bloomfield says the number of tests that can be carried out will be boosted.

So far there have been five confirmed cases of covid-19 in New Zealand, along with two probable cases.

One of those probable cases was a woman in her 70s who had been on a cruise last month aboard the Grand Princess.

On her return, she was admitted to North Shore hospital with a respiratory illness, now thought to be Covid-19, even though subsequent tests have come back negative for it.

That has meant dozens of staff have had to go into isolation.

But Dr Bloomfield said the Waitematā District Health Board has been able to find people to fill the gaps in its rosters.

Dr Bloomfield said health officials are also looking at ways to bolster the workforce - including making it easier for retired doctors or nurses to come back to work.

Meanwhile, health officials have now been able to confirm there are four New Zealanders currently aboard the Grand Princess, which has been quarantined off the California coast. All of them are crew members.

There are also 13 New Zealanders aboard the MSC Opera - another cruise ship that has been turned away from some European ports - however Dr Bloomfield says the Ministry of Health is not aware of any of those people being unwell.

Another New Zealander is on the quarantined Asara on a Nile River cruise, but again, there are no health concerns around this individual.