A new health notice has been issued, leaving no doubt about what Kiwis can and cannot do in lockdown – as top officials are today expected to announce that New Zealand has surpassed 1000 confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19.
But there are encouraging signs for New Zealand, a nation that is now into its 11th day of lockdown, with at least three more weeks to go.
“It may well be [Covid-19] is peaking now because we’re seeing it flattening off,” Director-General of Health Ashely Bloomfield told reporters yesterday.
New Zealand announced 82 new and probable cases yesterday, bringing our total cases to 950. There are two new cases in Marlborough but none in Nelson. The details of those in the Top of the South are below.
This is encouraging news, as one of the prerequisites for coming out of the level four lockdown is fewer new confirmed cases across the country.
“We’re increasingly confident these lockdown measures are working,” Bloomfield said.
And under the rules of a new Health Notice announced this weekend, there is now no doubt – fishing, swimming, surfing, hunting and tramping are banned.
Kiwis had previously been advised not to take part in these activities during the Covid-19 lockdown but the ban was made official in fresh laws released on the Government’s Covid-19 website.
The new Health Notice sets out:
• Everyone in New Zealand is to be isolated or quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for essential personal movement;
• Exercise is to be done in an outdoor place that can be readily accessed from home and two-metre physical distancing must be maintained;
• Recreation and exercise does not involve swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services;
• A child can leave the residence of one joint care-giver to visit or stay at the residence of another joint care-giver (and visit or stay at that residence) if there is a shared bubble arrangement;
• A person can leave their residence to visit or stay at another residence (and visit or stay at that residence) under a shared bubble arrangement if:
• One person lives alone in one, or both, of those residences; or
• Everyone in one of those residences is a vulnerable person.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomed the guidance and said police’s primary goal was to ensure people understood the importance of staying home.
“The vast majority of New Zealanders have a high level of awareness of what they can and can’t do under the Alert Level 4 restrictions, and by and large people are doing a tremendous job,” he said.
“We want people to stay safe, but if a small number of people persist in deliberately flouting the restrictions, police will have the discretion to warn or, if necessary, to arrest.
“The Health Notice makes it clear what types of outdoor exercise and recreation people shouldn’t do.
“Outside of that, we are asking people to stay local, apply common sense and not do anything that could risk exposure to injury or require search and rescue services.”
Coster said the public should not notice any “significant change to policing as we continue to prioritise high-visibility reassurance to the community, and a continued focus on day-to-day police work”.
“I have recently set a clear expectation of our staff on how we police in the current environment. We have updated our operational guidelines to staff, to help them police with confidence and certainty,” he said.
Bloomfield is scheduled to brief Cabinet sometime within the next week about the factors which would be required to move the country, or at least some parts of it, out of level 4.
“What we have seen over the last four or five days is effectively a flattening off of the number of new cases, including over the last two or three days with that much higher level of testing,” he told media yesterday.
He confirmed there were 82 new and probable Covid-19 cases – slightly up on Friday’s 71, but down on Thursday’s 89.
The total number of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand currently stands at 950.
“What we have seen over the last four or five days is effectively a flattening off of the number of new cases,” Bloomfield said.
Although sounding optimistic, he was careful not to get ahead of himself.
“But I would want to see probably another two or three days before we would start to know if there has definitely [been a] flattening off.”
The drop in the number of new cases is particularly good news, given the fact that officials have ramped up testing capacity.
More than 3600 tests were completed on Friday – taking the total number of tests completed so far to 33,116.
In other words, just under three in every 100 tests have come back positive.
Last week, Ardern marked April 6 as the first day when there could be signs that the “chain of Covid-19 transmission” had been broken.
She said if the number of new cases starts to shrink from then, the lockdown could be eased.
But she warned if community transmission is continuing, or even becoming rampant, the lockdown will likely be extended.
Bloomfield yesterday said there are 10 significant Covid-19 clusters across the country, the biggest being around the Marist school where there are 60 associated cases.
New Zealand’s death toll remains at one – but the number of deaths in the US has climbed to more than 7000.
In response to the continued spread in the US, the Centre for Disease Control recommended that all Americans wear face masks when they leave their home.
And that is advice New Zealand’s health officials may soon be recommending as well.
Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay told reporters yesterday that health officials were poised to receive advice from the World Health Organisation in the coming days as to whether all Kiwis should be wearing facemasks in public at all times.
The rationale behind the thinking lies in the plan to limit the spread of Covid-19 from those who have the virus but are not showing any symptoms.
According to Ministry of Health advice, people can have the disease but not be showing symptoms.
Any new facemask rules would be aimed at limiting the spread from those individuals.
But McElnay told reporters that face masks worn by the community at large was “right at the very bottom of our strategies for containment of Covid-19”.
She said there are other measures, such as proper hygiene etiquette, which are more effective in limiting the viruses’ spread.
But Bloomfield was quick to point out that the US was in a “very different situation from what New Zealand is at the moment”.
“They have clearly widespread infections and widespread community transmission,” he said after McElnay’s comments on face masks.
“They have a much lower rate of testing and that’s partly why they have … gone to advising the use of face [masks].”
Overall, Bloomfield said there has been a “very, very high level” of public compliance when it comes to the lockdown measures but there were still isolated incidents where people were breaking the rules.
On Friday, he signed a new public health notice which goes into detail as to what the lockdown expectations are.
For example, it makes it clear than under the level 4 lockdown, people are not allowed to do any water-based activities – such as swimming, surfing or boating – tramping or hunting.
- NZ HERALD