There are four new cases of Covid-19 to report today, all detected in managed isolation facilities.
A person who was a casual contact of a positive community case on a flight from Auckland to Wellington has also started feeling unwell and is awaiting tests results.
Director general Ashley Bloomfield has given a Covid-19 update following scares in Auckland, Wellington and the Waikato.
Of the imported cases, one came in from Austria, two from Dubai, and one from Qatar.
They are all now at the Jet Park quarantine facility.
There are 51 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. There were 3042 tests conducted yesterday.
The latest community cases – known as the November quarantine cluster – includes a Defence Force serviceperson working at the Jet Park facility in Auckland, who tested positive on Friday.
They had a meeting with a Defence Force civilian worker in Auckland on Wednesday, who then flew to Wellington on Thursday on Air NZ flight NZ 457, sitting in row 23.
That person developed symptoms on Friday night. The Health Ministry reported his positive result yesterday.
Bloomfield said today the person did not wear a mask on his flight.
The first case has a strain of Covid-19 directly linked to recent returnees who are in quarantine at the Jet Park.
“This does confirm this case’s infection comes from their work in the facility.”
How they got infected is still under investigation, Bloomfield said.
“We know we have one case [in Wellington]. That person is in quarantine. So far testing has not identified any further spread.”
“At the moment this looks well contained. We will continue to update people and, in the meantime, carry on with normal level 1.”
The person may have had direct interaction with cases in the Jet Park facility, for example through helping them move to exercise areas or for a smoking break.
Of their 25 close contacts, 23 have tested negative, one is pending, and one is the Defence Force civilians worker who tested positive yesterday.
That worker has 55 close contacts of which 32 have tested negative. He also has three household contacts, two of whom are school students. They are in isolation.
The schools in the Wellington region – Boulcott Primary and Hutt Intermediate, in Lower Hutt – have been contacted but are considered to be low risk given both students have tested negative.
Of nine close contacts that were on the same flight as the civilian worker, seven have tested negative.
Small towns on alert
This morning Otorohanga College said on its Facebook page that a Covid-positive person had flown from Wellington to Hamilton and may have had contact with college whanau who attended a community meeting in Kawhia.
However, the Waikato DHB said the flight was actually from Auckland to Wellington on November 5 – the same flight taken by the civilian worker.
Bloomfield today said the person was a casual contact and was feeling unwell. They had been tested.
They had not been sitting within two rows of the defence worker.
He confirmed the person went to the meeting in Kawhia, and Bloomfield said people at that meeting should be vigilant for any symptoms.
“We’re expecting the test result on that person later today.”
Push notifications for locations of interest were sent out yesterday via the Covid Tracer app, Bloomfield said.
Fifty app users had received push notifications, and he reminded Kiwis of the importance of using the app.
“We don’t know where and when that information might be useful.”
The locations where the Defence Force workers had been include:
• Avis Car Rental, Auckland Airport, November 5, 5 – 5:15pm
• Domestic Terminal, Auckland Airport, November 5, 5:30 – 7:45pm
• Orleans Chicken & Waffles, Auckland Airport, November 5, 5:30 – 7pm
• The Gypsy Moth, Auckland Airport, November 5, 7 – 7:15pm
• Hudsons, Auckland Airport, November5, 7 – 7:15pm
• Little Penang, 44 The Terrace, Wellington, November 6, 1:15 – 3:45pm
• Mezze Bar, Unit 1A, Soho Mall, Auckland CBD, November 5, 11am – 1pm
• Liquor.Com, 456 Queen Street, Auckland CBD, November 5, 1pm – 2pm
People at these locations at these times are considered casual contacts and should contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if they have symptoms or if they have any health concerns.
Everyone sitting within two seats in all directions are being asked to be tested and to self-isolate. Their household contacts are also being asked to self-isolate until the person on the flight has tested negative.
Bloomfield said he wanted people to use a mask on public transport and on flights at alert level 1. Asked if he thinks it should be mandatory, he said there was a case for that.
He said infection prevention controls would be reviewed at all MIQ facilities, especially at the Sudima where two nurses were infected after interacting with infected foreign mariners. There was no obvious sign of how the Sudima nurses became infected so far.
Bloomfield said the use of N95 masks for workers who interact with positive cases in MIQ was one thing the ministry was immediately looking at, especially given that there was “no obvious close contact or lengthy contact” in the last three border-facing workers.
The ministry was also looking at whether quarantine staff should attend face-to-face meetings during their period of working at the facilities.
He said N95 masks were better at preventing infection than the surgical masks that the MIQ healthcare workers currently use.
Movements of MIQ Defence Force staff were “already limited” and they didn’t tend to go out a lot because the facilities were staffed 24/7 and they were posted to these facilities for months at a time.
There was a meeting on Thursday with Defence Force people as well who are being treated as close contacts, who are all in isolation.
The criteria for a transtasman bubble was being looked at again, Bloomfield said. At the moment there needs to be 28 days of no community transmission where the source is unknown, which he said was a high bar.
'It's extraordinarily tricky' – Ardern
Cases have also been in the community in Christchurch after two nurses working at the Sudima quarantine facility were infected – but these cases appear to have been contained.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health said there was no need at this stage to change alert levels.
This morning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the number of times Covid-19 had crossed from an MIQ facility into the community was not a sign that the system was broken.
There have been at least seven instances in just over three months: the Jet Park nurse, the Rydges maintenance worker, the port engineer, each of the two Sudima nurses who interacted with the infected foreign mariners, the overseas arrival who is thought to have been infected from a shared rubbish bin lid, and the Jet Park Defence Force worker.
Bloomfield said the port engineer appeared to become infected after interacting with a member of the crew who had arrived from the Philippines. An update would be forthcoming about the other cases where Covid-19 has been transmitted from MIQ facilities into the community.
The Auckland August cluster is also thought to have probably come from an MIQ facility, but there is no evidence of this.
Epidemiologists and public health experts have called these failures of infection prevention controls, but Bloomfield and Ardern reject this.
“Ultimately we’ve had 70,000 people going through but more of them are coming back with Covid at the moment, so that heightens the risk,” Ardern told Newstalk ZB.
She said the Sudima nurses had both been wearing personal protective equipment.
One line of investigation is whether wearing N95 masks would have minimised risk more than the surgical masks they were wearing.
She said the prevention controls were always being reviewed so they could be improved.
“It’s a virus, though, and it’s extraordinarily tricky.”
Source: Read Full Article