N.Z. coronavirus cases hit 52, local outbreak possibility

By James Robertson 21 March 2020, 1:15PM

Coronavirus cases in New Zealand have spiked, bringing the country’s total to 52 and raising the first possibility of a local outbreak of the disease - not cases linked to international travel. 

In an apparent miscalculation the country's Director General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, announced at 11am local time that there had been 14 new cases in the past day.

But this figure was later retracted by health authorities.

“Most of these cases are travel cases, but as yet no link to overseas travel has been ascertained and we continue to investigate," Dr. Bloomfield said.  

“At this point we cannot rule out the risk of community transmission.”

Of the cases not yet linked to overseas travel one is in Auckland and one is in the greater Wellington region. 

Of the new cases four patients are in Wellington; three are in Auckland; two are in Manawatu; two in Nelson; one is in Waikato; and one is in Taupō, Dr. Bloomfield said. 

"We always knew cases apparently not linked to imported cases would happen and we are prepared," Dr. Bloomfield said.

“Physical distancing is fundamental to our collective response and we ask all New Zealanders to conscientiously play their part”. 

About 1500 cases were processed in New Zealand yesterday and overnight, Dr. Bloomfield said.

Of the newly confirmed cases, three are in hospital including a man in his 60s from Queenston; a woman from Nelson and another in the North Shore Hospital.

All conditions are listed as stable. 

Containment measures passed by the New Zealand Government include a ban of gatherings larger than 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors. 

The Government is also monitoring the condition of New Zealand passengers aboard an Australian cruise ship that departed the country three days ago. 

This story has been amended to reflect a retraction made by New Zealand health authorities about the number of new cases. 

By James Robertson 21 March 2020, 1:15PM

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