NZ’s covid-19 outbreak linked to case from Australia – now 21 cases

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ... "we believe we've uncovered the piece of the puzzle we were looking for." Image: RNZ screenshot APR

RNZ News

New Zealand’s current cases of covid-19 — the first community outbreak for six months — have been linked to a traveller who arrived from Australia and was taken to Middlemore Hospital earlier this week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have provided a covid-19 update on day two of the nationwide lockdown, when it was revealed there were now 21 community cases.

Ardern said the current positive cases had been linked via genome sequencing to a traveller who arrived from NSW on a managed red zone flight.

That person returned a positive day one test on August 9 and was moved from the Crown Plaza hotel to the Jet Park facility.

They were then transferred to Middlemore Hospital on August 16.

Ardern said the period in which cases were in the community was relatively short, but new information could change this conclusion.

She said primary lines of investigation were staff at the Crown Plaza, staff at the Jet Park facility and staff involved in their arrival and transport. Middlemore Hospital was not part of the investigation.

Customs were investigating footage and identifying areas of interest and testing staff.

“Nothing has eventuated from this line of inquiry to date,” she said.

Staff at Jet Park and Crown Plaza were being retested.

Watch the update 

Today’s covid media briefing by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Video: RNZ News

Ardern said a family adjacent to the case at the Crown Plaza had now tested positive for covid on their day 12 test.

“That means we’re dealing with a high level of infectivity in this case.”

She said everyone at the Crown Plaza would stay on while the usual protocols were undertaken.

Ardern said while compliance across the managed isolation sites for vaccination had been very high, “we will continue our search in a thorough way across both sites as you would expect”.

Ardern thanked the first positive case for getting tested.

“If it wasn’t for you getting tested when you did, this could be a much much more difficult situation.

“Having said that, we’re prepared for cases to get worse before they get better, that is always the pattern in these outbreaks. But today, we believe we’ve uncovered the piece of the puzzle we were looking for,” she said.

United Against Covid-19
A “stopping delta” promo advertisement of the Covid-19 United Against Covid-19 campaign mounted by the NZ government. Image: NZ govt flyer/APR

Stamping out ability improved
“That means our ability to circle the virus, lock it down, and stamp it out generally has greatly improved.”

Dr Bloomfield said all cases in the community are being transferred safely to a quarantine facility or are already there.

He said 12 of the 21 cases had already been confirmed as being part of the same Auckland cluster. A further eight wdere currently being investigated.

“These new community cases are not unexpected, as the prime minister said, and we would expect the number of cases to continue to grow in particular because of the large number of locations of interest and the mobility of these cases over the few days before the lockdown started.”

As of this morning, more than 360 individual contacts had been identified, although this did exclude contacts from large settings.

Number will increase
“Through the day-to-day, that number will increase significantly.”

Dr Bloomfield said they were fielding a large number of complaints about people holding gatherings and they were being referred to police.

“As you can see from that update, level 4 is where New Zealand needs to be at the moment,” Ardern said.

Ardern said ministers would meet tomorrow morning to decide the lockdown level for the rest of the country outside Auckland and Coromandel. The decision would be shared at tomorrow’s 1pm update.

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

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