New Zealand has eight new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20.
There were four cases in Auckland, two in Waikato, one in Christchurch and one in Invercargill – all of these people had returned from overseas travel.
On Wednesday, Ministry of Health’s director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said all the recent cases he knew about had been in self-isolation and were aware of the symptoms.
The Ministry of Health would provide information on flight details later on Wednesday but contact tracing for those sitting near these people on flights were underway.
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”All close contacts will be tested, and we won’t have those tests all back until Friday.”
The eight new cases is in addition to the twelve people who have tested positive for coronavirus in New Zealand. A fourth case was confirmed by Logan Park High School after a Dunedin high school student in self-isolation was tested.
Other people recently diagnosed were a Dunedin man in his 40s who travelled back from Germany and his family member who attended Logan Park High School, as well as a Wellington man in his 30s and his father in his 70s, who had recently travelled back from the United States.
The test results of another family member of the Dunedin man were still unknown.
Logan Park High School will be closed for at least 48 hours. There are around 150 close contacts with the Dunedin student who was tested positive for coronavirus, Bloomfield said, and they have been tested.
All those students will self-isolate for 14 days regardless of the test result, as they may be incubating the virus, he said.
A plan was in place and working should coronavirus enter a school, Ministry of Education Secretary of Education Iona Holsted said.
The Ministry of Education continued to plan for temporary school closures, but not the closure of all schools, she said.
The ministry was also working to ensure students in self-isolation could do distance learning. “We’ve planned of this, and will be able to respond,” Holsted said.
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The Ministry of Health expected more sporadic cases of coronavirus.
Bloomfield said there were 30,000 swabs for coronavirus tests that were being distributed around the country.
On Tuesday, Bloomfield said the ministry was ramping up testing, from about a 100 a day to 500.
“We have the capacity to do up to 1500 tests a day – well actually, we can do 750 to 1000 if we need to – but to go up to 1000, that just means doing an extra shift of laboratory staff. Again, we don’t want to run our laboratory staff to the ground so what’s most important is that we test the right people.”
“I think that we have no evidence at the moment of community outbreak, and our border restrictions are intended to keep that risk low,” he said.
He said modelling showed that if you modelled for the spread of coronavirus as a single wave of transmission, it could peak in community transmission before August.
The measures taken by the Ministry of Health were to ensure there was not a single, great peak of coronavirus cases, but a number of smaller manageable peaks over a longer period of time.
Since Tuesday, spot checks would now be carried out on some people, Bloomfield said.
There are now health staff at the border who are quizzing travellers about their plans for self-isolation while they’re in the country.
People who knew of travellers who weren’t going to self-isolate should notify Customs or Healthline, he said.
“Our system is gearing up to cope with if we do get a wider outbreak in New Zealand,” he said.
Bloomfield said police had visited 50 people who are supposed to be self-isolating.
“More visits will be conducted … We must all take it seriously.”
What you need to know
Covid-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a recently discovered coronavirus. It spreads via droplets from the nose or mouth expelled when a person with the disease coughs, sneezes or exhales. To avoid infection, people should stay at least a metre away from someone who has, or may have, the virus.
The viral incubation period, that is time between catching the virus and showing symptoms, ranges between 1-14 days.
The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Some people become infected but don’t develop symptoms or become unwell.
From what we know thus far, about four in five people recover without needing special treatment. About one in six become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. About one in 50 die.
The risk of catching Covid-19 from someone with no symptoms is very low, because the virus spreads via droplets expelled by coughing. However, it is possible to catch the disease from someone with very mild symptoms, including a cough.
To minimise the spread of infection, wash your hands thoroughly with an alcohol-based rub or soap and water, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and keep at least a metre away from other people coughing and sneezing.
People who have been in or transited through any country other than those in the Pacific islands or have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19, should self-isolate for 14 days from the date of departure or close contact. They should also register with Healthline (0800 358 5453).
People who display symptoms should phone Healthline in the first instance – don’t head straight to your doctor or medical centre.