UPDATE: 61 new/probable Covid-19 cases in NZ – total  now 708

LATEST UPDATE FROM THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH 

APRIL 1, 2020

The number of cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand has risen to 708 with 61 confirmed and probable cases recorded as at 9am this morning, the Ministry of Health said in this afternoon’s briefing.

Dr Caroline McElnay, the ministry’s Director of Public Health, said there are 47 new confirmed cases and 14 new probable cases with no additional deaths (the toll remains at one).

Fourteen people are in hospital with two stable in intensive care.  She said 82 people have recovered from Covid-19.

Dr McElnay said a new case definition will be issued today as a guide for clinical practitioners.

It says those with respiratory illness consistent with Covid-19 should be considered for testing, “regardless of travel history or contact with a confirmed case”.

“But we do rely on clinical judgement at all times for any assessment of any patient.”

Photo AHG NZ

She said this would result in more testing. “Our testing capacity is currently 3700 tests, and we are currently doing an average of 1843 tests per day, based over the last seven days.”

Labs for testing will increase from eight to 10 and will be in place by the end of next week and the Ministry hoped to see testing capacity rise to 5000 tests (more information below).

Dr McElnay said that while the lower reported numbers looked encouraging, they expected cases to rise in the next few days. The broadening of the case definition meant numbers were likely to rise.

“It’s much too early to read into those tests,” Dr McElnay said.

She said there was still a strong link to overseas travel and links to confirmed cases. Community transmission is about 1 per cent.

“However we continue to focus on getting better information on the data for community transmission.”

She said the 1 per cent community transmission figure was not solid as testing changed and more information was gathered. A surveillance plan to monitor community transmission is being developed, she said.

As reported midnight March 31, the following is the number of inpatients across all 20 DHBs:
·        Tairawhiti/Gisborne Hospital – 1
·        Waikato Hospital – 1  
·        Canterbury – 1
·        Auckland City Hospital – 1
·        Hawkes Bay Hospital – 1
·        Taranaki – 1
·        Middlemore Hospital – 2
·        Wairau Hospital, Blenheim – 1  
·        Nelson Hospital – 1  
·        Wellington City Hospital – 3
·        Palmerston North – 1
·        Tauranga – 1
·        Dunedin – 1

Updated Case Definition

The Technical Advisory Group met yesterday and are today issuing a new case definition.

The Case Definition is a guide for health professionals on testing, but also continues to accommodate their clinical judgement in determining testing.

The new case definition is now that anyone with respiratory symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should be considered for testing regardless of travel history or contact with a confirmed case.

This will result in more testing being done which we are also prepared for. Testing capacity is currently 3700 tests daily, and we are currently doing an average of 1843 tests per day based on the last seven days.

We are increasing capacity to test – currently we have 8 laboratories and by the end of next week that will be ten, with laboratories in Auckland and Tauranga coming on stream and increasing our capacity to more than 4000 tests per day.

Clusters

We are continuing to actively investigate and contact trace a number of clusters. There is the potential within clusters for rapid spread – which is why we identify, test, isolate and investigate these.

Cluster investigations happen at a local level through our DHBs and involve immediate contract tracing and sometimes more broad testing of those contacts and within the community to ensure we get good control, and we get better information about what is happening in that community.

We continue to fine-tune how we report these clusters and we will be updating our website later today to reflect current known significant clusters.

Our contact tracing continues apace.  Yesterday we were in contact with 418 close contacts to give them advice and information of the need for strict, monitored self-isolation for 14 days.  

Lastly, we are seeking physical distancing not social distancing so it is important that we all keep in contact by phone or through the various options we now have for communicating online.  

It is important that we again remind people to be considerate to each other, and their neighbours and to be kind.