30 Mar 2020

Covid-19 Sunday updates: NZ's first coronavirus death as case numbers rise

11:47 am on 30 March 2020

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it can be daunting keeping up with the information. For RNZ, our responsibility is to give you verified, up to the minute, trustworthy information to help you make decisions about your lives and your health. We'll also be asking questions of officials and decision makers about how they're responding to the virus. Our aim is to keep you informed.

A West Coast woman has become the first person to die in New Zealand from Covid-19 on a day that saw another 63 new cases added to the nation's tally.

A drop in Covid-19 cases in China, Kiwis return home, a blood donation drive and the Prime Minister announces our first coronavirus death - virus updates for 29 March.

Photo: RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield made the announcement at a briefing at the Beehive this afternoon.

"Understandably the family would like to take their time to grieve," Dr Bloomfield said.

"This latest sad news reinforces our move to alert level four."

The woman was aged in her seventies and had underlying health conditions. The country's Covid-19 cases now number 514.

Across the Tasman there was relief for 108 New Zealanders who finally caught a flight to Auckland after two weeks at sea on an aborted round-the-world cruise.

They faced uncertainty for days about where they would allowed to disembark.

All the passengers on the Vasco da Gama were finally allowed onto solid ground in Fremantle in Western Australia overnight.

The day also saw the police launch a new online form to "dob in" people or businesses suspected of being in breach of the lockdown. Within hours it was swamped and the police appealed for patience from users.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

In the United States President Donald Trump backed away from a plan to quarantine New York, after the state's governor said doing so would be "preposterous".

New York is the worst affected area in the US with 52,100 cases as the day saw the US surpass 100,000 cases in total.

Across the Channel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, still recovering from the coronavirus himself, wrote a letter to every household in Britain, warning the crisis could get worse and stronger measures to combat it may be necessary.

More than 660,000 infections have been confirmed globally and more than 30,000 deaths, according to figures released today by John Hopkins University. Nearly 140,000 patients have recovered.

First death announced

New Zealand has its first death after a woman who was initially diagnosed with influenza died.

The woman was in her 70s, and came from the West Coast.

She died this morning at Grey Base Hospital in Greymouth. She had tested positive for the virus on Friday.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said 21 DHB staff who treated the woman when her diagnosis was thought to be influenza had been asked to self-isolate.

He said there was a link to overseas travel but that was still being investigated.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this would be an enormously difficult time for the family of the person who died.

She said she knew the thoughts of everyone from around the country would be with the family.

"It also brings home exactly why we are taking such strong measures to stop the spread of this virus," she said.

"Our older New Zealanders and those with underlying health issues are by far the most at risk ... our shield of protection for these people is physical distance.

"Today's death is a reminder of the fight that we have on our hands ... stay at home, break the chain and save lives."

Bloomfield said there were 63 new cases of the virus including 60 confirmed cases and three suspected cases.

It brings the total to 514 cases in New Zealand.

He said the contacts were still being followed up, but he felt certain the number of cases of community transmission would continue to rise, which was why the level-four alert was in place.

By the numbers

New Zealand passed 500 cases of Covid-19 today.

One week ago we had 66 cases, two weeks ago we had eight, three weeks ago there were five and four weeks ago it had just been confirmed that one person had tested positive in New Zealand.

In just one month the number of cases in New Zealand has grown significantly as people rushed back after borders around the world closed and airlines stopped flying.

How Covid-19 is spreading in NZ: RNZ is tracking every confirmed and probable case using an interactive map

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Form for the public to share details on possible breaches

An online form has been launched so people can report breaches of the level four restrictions to police.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says more than 2000 people have phoned 111 to report others who are not following the lockdown rules.

But she says the online form will be more efficient and will be a more efficient use of police time. It can be accessed here.

Ardern says the police commissioner has confirmed police have all of the resources they need, including the powers to arrest and detain.

The website proved an immediate hit with the public, causing police to issue an appeal for people to be patient.

Police escort for cruise passengers

New Zealanders being repatriated from a cruise ship off Western Australia were escorted by police to their flight.

After two weeks on board the cruise ship without disembarking once, the 108 New Zealanders were finally allowed on solid ground in Fremantle in Western Australia overnight.

Buses took them directly to the airport, and an Air New Zealand plane flew out of Perth bound for Auckland.

The cruise left six weeks ago for a round-the-world trip but was cancelled after a passenger was suspected of having the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The person later tested negative, but the cruise remained cancelled and no one had been allowed to disembark until last night.

The Air New Zealand flight was expected to arrive in Auckland this afternoon.

Cruise ship CMV Vasco arrives at the port of Fremantle for emergency refuelling and supplies on March 27, 2020.

Cruise ship CMV Vasco arrives at the port of Fremantle for emergency refuelling and supplies on March 27, 2020. Photo: TONY ASHBY / AFP

Trump backtracks on plan for New York

President Donald Trump has said quarantining New York "will not be necessary", after the state's governor said doing so would be "preposterous".

Trump said the latest decision was taken on the recommendation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The president had earlier said he might impose a quarantine on New York, and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, to slow the spread of Covid-19.

There are more than 52,000 cases in New York.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Saturday about the situation in New York, Trump said: "We'd like to see [it] quarantined because it's a hotspot... I'm thinking about that."

However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded by saying that quarantining the state of New York would be "preposterous" and "anti-American".

The disagreement coincided with the United States' total number of cases surpassing 100,000 for the first time.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23:  U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 23, 2020 in Washington, DC.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

UK PM warns of worse to come

The UK prime minister has written to every household in Britain saying the Covid-19 will get worse before it improves.

Boris Johnson, who is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, says stricter restrictions could be introduced.

Britons will also get a leaflet detailing government rules on leaving the house and health information.

It follows criticism over the clarity of government advice to date.

The number of people who have died with coronavirus in the UK has now reached 1019, with a further 260 deaths announced on Saturday.

There are now 17,089 confirmed cases in the UK.

New Zealanders urged to give blood

The Blood Service is encouraging people to donate blood while they are healthy as it aims maintain a continuity of supply as the Covid-19 crisis deepens.

Blood Service spokesperson Asuka Burge said there had been a slight dip in demand for blood products as elective surgeries were postponed, but that only told half the story.

She said donors had to be healthy, so the other half of the equation was the difficulty of having a steady supply.

Burge said the Blood Service was an essential service so people could still travel to donate blood and extra steps were being taken at its clinics to make sure the procedure was safe.

  • Coronavirus: First death in New Zealand from Covid-19
  • Coronavirus recap: Covid-19 in NZ and around the world on 29 March
  • Covid-19: What we know about New Zealand’s first 500 cases
  • Coronavirus: Blood donors urged to help maintain supply
  • Coronavirus: Trump backs away from New York quarantine