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Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health

For the fifth consecutive day, there are no additional confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand.

The World Health Organization’s declaration overnight of a pandemic reinforces the importance of the planning and preparation already informing New Zealand’s response to COVID-19.

As part of that planning, DHBs are further developing their plans with primary care for dedicated community assessment centres if needed.

At this point, the mainstay of our community response is for people to ring Healthline or ring ahead to their General Practice if they are feeling unwell, and they’ll be advised what to do.

As plans develop, they may be referred to a community assessment centre or a General Practice that has been set aside or dedicated for that purpose.

This approach would also allow for scaling up to manage additional demand if that was needed in future.

The Ministry’s expert group met again today and provided further advice on countries of concern to inform changes to the Ministry’s case definition and also advice on expanding testing within primary care.

This advice will be fed into the Government’s wide planning and inform decisions and announcements in coming days.

Planning is also underway for scaling up the country’s ability to contact trace individuals exposed to others with COVID-19 These measures remain critical to limit the risk of spread.

Aged Care facilities, which care for our oldest and most vulnerable New Zealanders, have been advised to ramp up their communications with visiting friends and relatives to warn anyone sick to stay away until they have been well for 48 hours.

Our case numbers remain unchanged. New Zealand has five confirmed cases based on positive test results and two probable cases. The two patients who had been in hospital – one confirmed case and one probable case, have both been discharged home and are being checked daily by public health staff.

All 252 close contacts of the confirmed cases are being monitored daily by health staff.

The majority of the North Shore Hospital staff stood down and asked to self-isolate, as a result of an earlier hospitalisation of one of the probable cases, have now returned to work.

Other staff will progressively return. If they remain well, all staff will be back at work by Monday 16 March.

Our key advice, which is fundamental to our response, is not putting yourself or others at risk if you are unwell. This means not going to work or going to places where there are other people if you are sick. All of us have a role to play in stopping further spread. I need to emphasise how critical this is as New Zealand responds to COVID-19,’ says the Ministry’s Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

‘This is particularly important for the concerts and large gatherings we have coming up, including this weekend. Please stay home if you’re unwell.’

Now is the time to be even more vigilant. Everyone can help by ensuring good health etiquette – washing hands for twenty seconds, sneezing into your arm and not touching your face.’