NZ covid: 14 close contacts of Northland case test negative

Professor Shaun Hendy
Professor Shaun Hendy ... suggests another test five days after a person leaves an MIQ facility. Image: RNZ

By RNZ News

New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has revealed that 14 close contacts of the Northland community case have returned negative test results.

Hipkins said in a tweet today three more test results were pending.

Yesterday he announced two close contacts – her husband and hair dresser – were negative.

In his tweet, Hipkins described the news as “encouraging”.

However, New Zealand should be ready to move alert levels if there is an outbreak of the new covid-19 South African variant, says a leading modeller of the pandemic.

Auckland University professor Shaun Hendy said more data on the Northland community case was expected soon.

He compared the Northland community case with the Auckland August cluster but said the new covid variants were more transmissible meaning if an infected person could infect two more last year, this year they might infect three.

Accummulating evidence
There was accumulating evidence that the new variant spread far more easily, he said.

On 12 August 2020, Auckland moved to alert level 3, while the rest of the country moved to level 2.

“That just means the sort of restrictions we used last year in August in Auckland wouldn’t be as effective in containing the outbreak.”

However, Dr Hendy said with this case it was “highly unlikely” the country would need to move alert levels the same way; partly because the source of last year’s transmission was not identified.

The positive case of the Northland woman can be traced back to the MIQ facility.

“The chances of there being a large number of cases at this stage that we don’t know about or that we’re unable to track are quite slim.”

He said it was not inevitable that there would be leaks at the border.

‘We need to be prepared’
“We need to be prepared for another Auckland August situation.”

Dr Hendy suggested another test five days after a person left an MIQ facility.

Australia suspended quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders for at least 72 hours after confirmation yesterday New Zealand has a case of the South African variant of covid-19.

PM Jacinda Ardern said she had advised her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison that this country had confidence in its systems and processes.

However, she said it was Australia’s decision as to how it managed its borders.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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