Woman's death added to Covid tally

An elderly woman who died at St Margaret's rest home in Auckland last week is New Zealand's 22nd Covid-19 death.

A death notice for Eileen Hunter, 96, said the rest home resident died "due to Covid-19" on May 24.

Hunter's family believe she contracted the deadly virus during an outbreak that infected staff and patients, but before today her death had not been recorded in the Ministry of Health's official Covid-19 death statistics.

In the 1pm media briefing today Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said Hunter's death would now be treated as being related to Covid-19.

Hunter had been confirmed as having Covid-19 in April and recovered in hospital and had two negative test results since then, he said.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said she was regarded as having recovered from Covid-19 at the time of her death and so Covid-19 was not recorded as the primary cause of her death. 

However, after consideration, the ministry had decided to include the death in its overall tally of Covid-19-related deaths, "consistent with our inclusive approach to date".

Dr Bloomfield also announced that there are no new Covid-19 cases today.

It is the sixth day in a row since a new case has been recorded, a record since the start of the pandemic.

The total tally of confirmed and probable cases stands at 1504.

Dr Bloomfield encouraged Kiwis to continue their exercise habits developed during lockdown and urged people to "continue active transport when they can".

"This could include walking or cycling if you have a short trip to work, to school, or the shops.

"You can expect to see councils providing more space for people walking and cycling, with temporary bike lanes and so. This is important because as traffic returns people need to feel safe continuing to cycle and walk in towns and cities," he said.

Second wave?

The World Health Organisation has reminded countries about relaxing restrictions as epidemics come in waves and another wave was a possibility in NZ for months to come.

A potential risk was aircrew coming into the country, said Bloomfield, and the Ministry was working with airlines on ways to strengthen the current guidelines further, especially for flights that went further than Australia.

Dr Bloomfield said the virus has a long tail and the death today shows how long the impact of the disease and how long after infection people had tested positive was why New Zealand would be at alert level 2.

New Zealand stepped into alert level 3 and 2 rapidly and relaxed mass gatherings, he said.

He said "it was safe to go back" to work now.

The recommendation for face masks on air travel was still they're not required but not discouraged, he said.

It was hard for New Zealand to say we're on a pathway to eradication while the pandemic was ongoing overseas and New Zealand was looking at opening up the borders. The goal was still elimination, he said.

Transtasman bubble

On the transtasman bubble, Dr Bloomfield said from a health perspective it was the number of cases and the pattern of cases that they would be looking at in Australia and whether any risks could be managed in transit of people.

Once there's a degree of comfort in travel between states that it might be that they are comfortable in opening up the border to New Zealand.

The Pacific is also an option for opening the border, he said.

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