New Zealand has reported its largest number of daily deaths from Covid-19 as the total toll rises to nine, Marc Daalder reports

Four more people have died from Covid-19 in New Zealand, the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Tuesday.

Three patients from Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch who were transferred to Burwood Hospital were among the dead – two were men in their 90s, one was a man in his 80s and all three had some form of underlying conditions. The fourth case was a man in his 70s who died at Wellington Hospital, after being admitted on March 22 and spending a considerable amount of time in intensive care.

The Wellington man’s case was linked to overseas travel.

New Zealand’s total death toll is now nine. It remains just one of seven countries to have more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases and fewer than 10 deaths.

Bloomfield emphasised that aged care facilities have taken appropriate precautions and were operating correctly in the difficult circumstances the pandemic has created.

“I have also decided to commission a review of the rest home facilities where we have had cases. Because in some of those instances, the cases have been able to be bounded very quickly with no further transmission, and in others, we’ve seen just how tricky this virus is and that it can spread quite rapidly. So we think it’s a very good point in time to undertake a review of both the facilities where we have had cases to learn about what’s worked well and where we could improve, but also to look at some facilities that might be similar where they haven’t had cases.”

There were 17 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand on Tuesday, comprised of eight new confirmed cases and nine probable ones. There are now 628 recoveries and the total number of cases is now 1,366.

Of the 738 active cases, 15 are in hospital. Of these, three are in intensive care.

Nearly half – 48 percent – of our cases involved contact with a confirmed case while 38 percent are linked to overseas travel. Just 2 percent are community transmission and the remainder are still under investigation.

Bloomfield said that the Government was continuing to ramp up its testing and contact tracing regime in order to prepare the country for leaving lockdown. As of Tuesday, public health officials have the ability to trace contacts for 100 new cases per day. Testing criteria will also be relaxed in order to make up for a decline in testing, which Bloomfield suspects is due to a broader decline in the spread of any respiratory illnesses because of the lockdown.

Instead of testing all rest home residents or asymptomatic people, Bloomfield encouraged New Zealanders with even minor symptoms to contact Healthline or their GP and seek testing. He also left the door open to future testing of asymptomatic people or the rollout of antibody tests which detect immunity to the virus.

The Government is also reconsidering bans on visitors to hospitals, even as the number of healthcare workers with the virus has spiked.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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