NZ considering random COVID-19 testing

By AAP Newswire

Self-isolating New Zealanders could face a knock on their door from health officials as part of government plans to expand the county's COVID-19 testing regime.

A day after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted the country's testing regime meant the government couldn't tell whether the spread was increasing, health officials revealed random community testing was being considered.

The government is eager to see testing increase, with an average of around 1700 tests being done per day in the last week but with an overall capacity for double that.

More laboratories have been brought online to assist with the task.

Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay said her team was "developing a surveillance plan for COVID-19".

"We will be identifying all the different information sources that we need to allow us to truly say what is happening with COVID-19 in New Zealand," she said.

"A community survey for some communities could be part of that plan."

Asked specifically if that meant testers door knocking and testing Kiwis, she said "we haven't excluded that that's part of our planning process".

New Zealand is currently on day six of a four-week lockdown with severe restrictions on business and movement of people.

Until yesterday, when the government tweaked its rules due to public sentiment, it was impossible to buy a heater in New Zealand.

On Wednesday, Dr McElnay also announced the country had added another 61 coronavirus cases to leave its overall tally at 708.

The health system is on an emergency setting to handle the disease's spread, but is holding up fine presently.

There has been just one death, a woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions from the South Island's West Coast, who was mis-diagnosed with the flu on her arrival to hospital.

Just 14 people require treatment in hospital, with only two of those in intensive care units. Both are in a stable condition.

The 61 fresh cases represents a slight downward trend from a high-water mark last week, when daily cases were in the 80s.

Dr McElnay said those numbers were "encouraging" before suggesting she thought there were more cases in the community that were yet to be diagnosed.

"It's much too early to say what that actually means," she said.

"We always expected we get an increase in in cases.

"We broadened the (testing instructions) so that should result in more positive results coming through."