17 Mar 2020

Three new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand

4:14 pm on 17 March 2020

There are three new cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in New Zealand, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed.

Dr Bloomfield has provided the latest update on the Ministry of Health's response to Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand.

Watch the latest media conference here:

Dr Bloomfield said all three new cases were people who had returned from international travel.

There have now been 11 confirmed and two probable cases in this country.

Two of the new cases are in Wellington and one is in Dunedin.

The man in Dunedin is in his 40s and began to show symptoms five days after returning from Germany. Two of his family members, who have Covid-19 symptoms, are in self isolation.

Dr Bloomfield said the Dunedin man's son goes to Logan Park school in the city and has symptoms. If he tests positive, the Ministry of Health is recommending the school closes for 48 hours and is carefully cleaned.

The Wellington cases were a man in his 30s and his father in his 70s who had recently returned from the United States and neither of them require hospital care. They came to Auckland from Los Angeles on Saturday on American Airlines flight AA83. They then travelled to Wellington on Air NZ flight NZ419 that same day.

Dr Bloomfield said there were about 500 Covid-19 tests being conducted today around the country.

He said a traveller who arrived in Christchurch yesterday was unwilling to self-isolate, so plans were being made to deport that person.

Dr Bloomfield said the Health Ministry had been expecting more sporadic cases.

"We expect more travellers returning to New Zealand to present with symptoms of Covid-19 and they will be tested."

He said the rule for 14 days of compulsory self-isolation for those returning to New Zealand would help reduce transmission of the virus.

Dr Bloomfield said New Zealand had no barrier for testing in terms of cost, nor was there any constraint on capacity.

However, it was important to ensure the right people were tested, he said.

"That is to say, people with a history of recent overseas travel or contact with a probable, possible or suspected case, and who have symptoms suggestive of Covid-19."

Both Healthline and the government call centre faced "unprecedented" demand yesterday, Dr Bloomfield said.

They received seven times the number of calls compared with the same time last year.

"They answered more than 7000 calls."

Dr Bloomfield said he was aware that some people had to wait a long time or had their calls dropped.

"What I can do is reassure people that Healthline and the staff there are doing an excellent job of trying to answer all calls and trying to prioritise calls where people need clinical advice."

Other steps were also being taken to keep the service running smoothly.

The phone capacity had increased to 400 parallel lines, a number that would go up to 1200 by the end of the week.

Clinical and non-clinical staff numbers were also going up.

* Follow all the latest updates with the RNZ live blog here.

Earlier this afternoon, the government unveiled a $12.1 billion package to combat the effects of the coronavirus.

It will include a $500 million fund for health, which includes extra intensive care capacity and equipment for hospitals, support for GPs and primary care and improving video conferencing and telehealth consultations.

The funding will also nearly double resources for Public Health Units to increase the ability to contact trace the virus. Healthline will also receive a $20 million boost for more staff.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

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