New Zealand has suffered its first coronavirus-related death, a woman aged in her 70s on the West Coast of South Island.
The woman, who had underlying health conditions, was mis-diagnosed with influenza on admittance to hospital.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her thoughts were with the family of the deceased.
“Today’s death is a reminder of the fight that we have on our hands,” she said.
“It is a very sad day. It also brings home exactly why we are taking such strong measures to stop the spread of this virus.
“Everyone can play their part through the simplest of tasks by not having contact with people outside of your bubble. Stay at home. Break the chain and save lives.”
New Zealand is in day four of a government-ordered lockdown that far outweighs Australia’s in severity.
Health officials confirmed new 63 cases on Sunday, taking the country’s overall tally of coronavirus cases to 514.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said New Zealanders could no longer be in any doubt as to the seriousness of the pandemic, “particularly for older people, and those with underlying pre existing health conditions”.
As hospital staff were not equipped with the specific personal protective equipment to deal with a COVID-19 case, 21 hospital workers have been placed into self-isolation.
Of the 514 New Zealand cases of the disease, nine are receiving hospital care and just one other is in intensive care requiring the use of a ventilator. Some 56 Kiwis have recovered.
Fresh cases declining
The 63 fresh cases in the past 24 hours is a drop from the 83 announced on Saturday and 85 announced on Friday.
Ms Ardern said that didn’t mean New Zealand was out of the woods.
“We’ve had discussion over what it is our case numbers might be telling us at present. None of us are willing to draw any conclusions at this early stage,” she said.
“We must remember that there is a considerable lag time in any of our results.
“So we all need to be vigilant. No one can be complacent.”
Dr Bloomfield said the opportunity for Kiwis to be lifesavers was right in front of them.
He quoted Wellington Hospital Intensive Care Specialist Dr Paul Young who said,
“If New Zealand pulls together as a community and stays at home, you will save more lives than I will in my entire career”.