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New Zealand confirms 216 A/H1N1 flu cases, one woman critical ill
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The number of influenza A/H1N1 confirmed cases rose to 216 on Friday in New Zealand. One 30--year- old woman in Wellington was in critical condition with the virus.

The woman, who has a history of respiratory problems, was the first to be admitted to hospital's intensive care with the virus.

On Friday, New Zealand was moving to a "manage it" phase as part of its response to the Influenza A/H1N1 outbreak. The shift in phase reflected the increased spread of the virus, rather than a change in the severity of the illness, especially in the three main cities - Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland.

There were 643 suspected cases but figures were expected to climb much higher than that.

Health Minister Tony Ryall told a press conference on Friday that the change announced was about how the outbreak was managed.

"We're remaining in code yellow we are not moving to code red, this is a reflection of the spread, not the severity, of the flu," he said.

"We are moving today because of the widespread community transmission of swine flu, the fact that we've got large numbers of people out there in the community (infected).

"Our focus is now moving to help those people in the community that have the illness."

The health authorities were now focusing on ensuring community- based health services were able to manage large numbers of people with flu as well as maintain services for other ill people.

Ryall said ill people should stay at home and seek help if they got very sick.

Tamiflu would be used for very ill people and not to help prevention. Some quarantining would be used in strategic ways.

Deputy director of public health Darren Hunt said most people would not be tested for influenza A/H1N1 now.

It would be hard to say how many had caught the virus but weekly consultation rates for flu-like symptoms were double than at the same time last year.

Finance Minister Bill English said influenza A/H1N1 represents "one more bend in the road to recovery," but the economy faces significantly larger challenges.

Treasury suggests a severe pandemic could cut Gross Domestic Product by 5 percent to 10 percent in the first year and warns the economy's ability to cope with further serious shocks is currently weak.

The Treasury advice is based on a worst case scenario of 40 percent of the population infected, of whom 2 percent die.

English said the government does not believe the worst-case scenarios are likely to eventuate as the flu appears to be a relatively mild illness. The Government has not investigated emergency economic powers in any depth, he says.

Westpac Bank is estimating that influenza A/H1N1 could cut 1 percent to 2 percent from New Zealand's economic growth over the next year which may lengthen the recession by another two of quarters.

The main disruption will be people taking time off work, avoiding contact with one another and the impact on business and consumer confidence, according to the bank's economists.

(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2009)

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