A second person has died of coronavirus in New Zealand after the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claimed they were successfully fighting back against the disease.
The woman aged in her 90s died of the virus on Thursday while receiving care at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch.
She had a number of additional health issues on her admittance to hospital.
The woman died without the comfort of any family members due to the country’s level four restrictions.
Her family was prohibited from visiting the hospital in the days before her death, but medical staff sat by her side.
The woman had only recently tested positive for coronavirus and was among 20 residents from Rosewood Rest Home and Hospital that were transported to Burwood Hospital earlier this week.
The death comes after Ms Ardern hailed New Zealanders on Thursday for mounting a ‘wall of defence’ that was ‘breaking the chain of transmission’ after the country moved quickly to impose a lockdown.
New Zealand’s death toll has risen to two after a woman in her 90s tragically died of coronavirus on Thursday after PM Jacinda Ardern claimed the country was winning the war against the virus
The PM said the country was already ‘turning a corner’ just six weeks after the epidemic reached New Zealand.
Lockdown measures could be softened in just over a week, Ardern said, opening the door for some people to return to work if their employers can ensure social distancing.
Two other New Zealanders are currently in a critical condition among five receiving treatment in intensive care units.
After a run of three days with lower daily cases were reported, NZ recorded a small increases in cases on Good Friday.
The reported coronavirus numbers in New Zealand spiked from 29 on Thursday 44 on Friday, taking the nationwide tally to 1283.
In an update on Friday, Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said the spike showed New Zealand couldn’t be ‘too complacent’ in responding to the virus.
Australia has also squashed the curve, with both countries carrying out more widespread tests than Britain or the United States.
In an update on Friday, Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay (pictured) said the spike to 44 cases showed New Zealand couldn’t be ‘too complacent’ in responding to the virus
This graph shows the daily number of coronavirus cases recorded each day in New Zealand (in yellow), according to figures from the government health ministry. The red line shows the falling rate of growth in virus cases
This graph shows the flattening curve in Australia, where drastic measures were imposed at an earlier stage than in much of Europe
This graph shows the equivalent figures for the UK. There were already thousands of cases confirmed in Britain by the time Boris Johnson imposed a lockdown
How Australia and New Zealand are leading the way in testing
Rate: One in 80 people
Rate: One in 97 people
Rate: One in 149 people
Rate: One in 235 people
On Thursday, Ardern praised New Zealanders for ‘saving lives’ by obeying government rules in the first half of a four-week lockdown.
‘At the halfway mark I have no hesitation in saying, that what New Zealanders have done over the last two weeks is huge,’ she said.
‘In the face of the greatest threat to human health we have seen in over a century, Kiwis have quietly and collectively implemented a nationwide wall of defence.
‘You are breaking the chain of transmission. And you did it for each other.’
Warning against complacency, she added: ‘As we head in to Easter I say thank you to you and your bubble.
‘We have what we need to win this marathon. You have stayed calm, you’ve been strong, you’ve saved lives, and now we need to keep going.’
Ardern says her government will decide on April 20 whether to extend or relax the lockdown, which is currently due to expire at midnight on April 22.
New Zealand is currently at its highest Alert Level 4, but Ardern said ministers could decide to move it down to Level 3.
Under Level 3, people are not generally ordered to stay at home, although public buildings would still be shut and mass gatherings cancelled.
Travel would be limited ‘in areas with clusters or community transmission’ rather than generally, and ‘some non-essential businesses should close’ rather than all of them.
‘Ask whether it’s possible for your business to have social distancing. Can you build in contact tracing tools or mechanisms to keep track of your supply train and customers?,’ Ardern asked today, saying there would be ‘more detailed guidance’ next week on what an easing of restrictions would look like.
New Zealand began testing for the virus as long ago as January 22, although it did not confirm a positive case until February 26.
The government then began taking drastic public health measures in mid-March, even when it had relatively few cases of the disease.
As early as March 14, all new arrivals into New Zealand were ordered into self-isolation, while cruise ships were banned. Today Ardern announced that citizens returning home would be kept in an ‘approved facility’ for 14 days.
In Australia, a ban on foreign nationals entering from China was imposed only six days after Australia reported its first case, which was on January 25.
Australia’s self-isolation restrictions were extended to those returning from Iran on February 29, South Korea on March 5 and Italy on March 11.
Both Australia and New Zealand have also put some people into quarantine in hotels. Evacuees from Wuhan were kept off the Australian mainland altogether, spending their two-week quarantine on Christmas Island instead.
By contrast, UK airports continued to allow people to arrive from hotspots such as Italy without health checks. Airports are still not carrying out temperature checks and there are no special rules for new arrivals.
New Zealand had only 32 confirmed cases on March 18, when Ardern announced that all non-residents and non-citizens were banned from entering the country.
This graph shows COVID-19 infections in the days since 100 cases were confirmed in (from top to bottom) the USA, Spain, the UK, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore
This chart shows how Australia and New Zealand are both testing far more people than Britain and the United States when the figures are adjusted by population
Australia’s quarantine rule was extended to anyone entering the country on March 15 and the nation’s borders were closed to all but citizens and residents from March 20.
Britain has imposed no such ban, although airlines have heavily scaled back flights. The Channel Tunnel remains open.
Gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned in New Zealand since March 19, and schools, bars and restaurants were ordered to close from March 24.
Ardern announced a total Level 4 lockdown from March 26, at which point there were 363 confirmed cases. Britain had waited until there were 6,650 cases before Boris Johnson announced a UK lockdown three days earlier.
In Australia, prime minister Scott Morrison announced the closure of bars, clubs, casinos and places of worship on March 22. Australian state governments have moved at different speeds on school closures.
The New Zealand government’s official count shows that only 12 positive tests were added to the figures yesterday, the eighth straight day of decline by that measurement.
Ardern has urged people to stay at home – although she had to demote her health minister after he broke social distancing rules by driving his family to the beach.
The minister, David Clark, said in a statement that he had been ‘an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me’.
Australia kept its early evacuees from China off the mainland altogether by ordering into quarantine on Christmas Island, where they stayed in a former immigration detention centre (pictured)
New Zealand – which has a population of around five million – is currently testing around 3,500 people a day, according to government figures.
For comparison, the UK carried out around 15,000 tests on Tuesday – only four times as many for a population which is 13 times larger.
Britain would need to be testing nearly 50,000 people per day to match New Zealand’s level of screening.
The testing regime in New Zealand has increased in recent days, with around 25,000 tests carried out since the start of April.
The government says it has more than 47,000 testing kits in stock, almost as many as the 51,165 tests carried out so far.
New Zealand has also published very detailed figures on its government website, even including probable cases which have not been confirmed.
Every case is listed with an age group, a rough location and – where relevant – the details of that person’s recent international travel, including their flight number.
Most countries have not published a count of suspected cases. New Zealand has 1,239 cases if they are included, with 992 of them confirmed.
One Kiwi has died to date, an elderly South Island woman. Health officials said she was in her 70s and had initially been diagnosed with influenza.
A sign telling New Zealanders to ‘stay home’ is displayed by the side of a road in Wellington today
Police in New Zealand are seen stopping vehicles on the state highway at Warkworth on Thursday (pictured), ensuring those travelling are doing so for essential reasons
Meanwhile, Australia also appears to be flattening the curve with only 54 deaths and 6,204 cases recorded as of Friday night.
Border closures and Australia’s decision to ignore the World Health Organisation’s early insistence there was no need to restrict travel to and from China also seems to have protected the country from a worst-case scenario of 150,000 deaths.
Australia has carried out more tests outright than Britain, despite having a population of only 25.4million compared to the UK’s 66.4million.
Prime minister Scott Morrison believes COVID-19 restrictions have prevented perhaps tens of thousands of infections that would otherwise have occurred.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says: ‘We know that the tools we are using do work, and we can scale them up and down as necessary, and the data we have now suggests they are working.’
Professor Tony Blakely, epidemiologist and public health medicine specialist at the University of Melbourne, said Australia had done better than he expected.
‘I think we’ve done remarkably well and some of the headline numbers look really good,’ Professor Blakely said.
‘We’ve actually managed to get to the case load down enormously. Very impressive. Well done.’
An empty Lambton Quay, Wellington’s main shopping district, is seen on April 3 (pictured) as the country went into lockdown
As an island continent which can only be reached by long sea or air travel from most of the world, Australia should have some natural advantages in fighting pandemics.
Most of the last remaining places with no coronavirus cases are remote Pacific island nations, including Palau and Samoa. Similarly, some animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and H5N1 bird flu have never reached Australia.
Australians ‘happy’ with handling of COVID-19
Almost two thirds of Australians (65 per cent) say the federal government is handling COVID-19 well, according to Roy Morgan research.
Of Australians who agree the government is handling the crisis well, 21 per cent ‘strongly agree’ while 44 per cent at least ‘agree’. Just 6 per cent ‘strongly disagree’.
Fewer Australians – 59 per cent – still believe the worst is yet to come for the pandemic over the next month than did so a week earlier.
The figures come from a nation-wide web survey of 987 Australians aged over 18 conducted last weekend.
The number of Australians who are afraid they or someone they know will catch the virus has fallen slightly to 73 per cent.
Four out of five Australians were willing to sacrifice some of their human rights if it helped prevent the spread of the disease.
Professor Blakely said Australia’s lower infections rate compared with countries such as the US and the UK could in part be put down to the country’s geographic isolation.
‘We had another 10-day window to actually respond and stop it getting that way,’ he said.
‘We worked hard to stop it getting that way but we also were lucky being down the bottom of the world we had a little bit more time to respond.’
Asian neighbours which acted quickly against coronavirus including Taiwan (379 cases, five deaths) and Singapore (1,623 and six) have fared even better.
‘You could also argue that our geographic proximity to Asia and seeing how Singapore, South Korea – China to some extent – really did respond very well and perhaps emulating them a little bit more than some of the western countries might be a small reason,’ Professor Blakely said.
‘But I think mainly that we had a little bit more time to respond.’
The first case of COVID-19 infection in Australia – a Chinese citizen who had arrived from Guangzhou on January 19 – was reported in Melbourne on January 25.
Australia acted quickly to close its borders, despite the World Health Organisation’s advice. On February 3, WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was still saying there was no need for measures that ‘unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.’
With New Zealand in lockdown due to COVID-19, police (pictured on Thursday in Warkworth) are setting up checkpoints to ensure people on the roads are travelling for essential purposes
Despite New Zealand and Australia’s success, epidemiologists who specialise in disease outbreaks have warned that drastic decisions to shut down a country do not necessarily eliminate infections and could merely delay a spike in cases.
Experts agree that lockdowns do ‘flatten the curve’ in the short-term but some say that when lifted, a spike in cases will inevitably occur.
UK Government advisers warned of a second COVID-19 wave in the autumn, upon the lifting of ‘very stringent behavioural and social interventions’.
The SAGE group did not explain what the measures were or if the UK had adopted them – but it is thought they include locking down entire regions, like China.
Top scientists say the killer coronavirus could spread after a lockdown by infecting patients who had no idea they were harbouring the killer illness.
Cases could snowball within days, with the SARS-CoV-2 virus known to be at least twice as contagious as flu and one patient spreading it to around three others.
A nurse tests a member of the public at a COVID-19 drive through testing centre in Northcross in Auckland on April 2 (pictured)
COVID-19 patients can be asymptomatic for days, meaning they unknowingly pass it on to others around them in the community.
Experts also warn easing lockdowns and allowing international travellers to enter again could lead to a spike in imported cases.
Nonetheless, New Zealand will now implement new controls to keep case numbers down.
As of Friday, every new arrival will be required to quarantine for a fortnight – similar to a measure in Australia.
The government will also turn to tracking applications to assist with contact tracing, a model which has won praise in South Korea and Singapore.
There will also be roadblocks around New Zealand to stop Kiwis travelling to their beach houses or to visit family over Easter.