MELBOURNE: New Zealand recorded its first death related to COVID-19, and the number of people infected with the virus rose by 63 cases to a total of 514, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Sunday (Mar 29).

Bloomfield said the woman who died was in her 70s and was initially diagnosed with influenza.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the woman had tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday morning, before dying in Greymouth Hospital two days later.

Bloomfield said that he was still waiting for answers on how the woman contracted COVID-19, but said that it was likely a link from overseas, according to The New Zealand Herald.

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He added that the woman was “well known” to district health board staff members, and that those who treated her are symptomatic of COVID-19.

According to Newshub, 21 staff members were potentially exposed before the woman tested positive for COVID-19.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had called the news “devastating”, reported The New Zealand Herald.

“Today’s death is a reminder of the fight we have on our hands,” she said, calling on New Zealanders to “stay at home, break the chain and save lives”.

New Zealand declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, as the government imposed self-isolation for everyone, with all non-essential services, schools and offices to be shut for a month.

With about 5 million people, New Zealand has fewer infections than many other countries, but  Ardern’s government wanted to move fast to halt the spread. It was one of the first to force all arriving travellers into self-isolation and to ban indoor and outdoor gatherings.

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