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Covid Alert Level 2 now in force – no new cases but 420 contacts in isolation

News from Ministry of Health
New South Wales health officials have confirmed an epidemiological link of the Australian tourist who returned to Sydney and then tested positive to the Bondi cluster, providing reassurance the person did not contract COVID-19 in Wellington. Genome sequencing of the visitor is underway.

Four initial close contacts in New Zealand who were previously identified are isolating, following public health advice, and have all returned negative test results.

So far, 420 people have been identified as contacts – of those, 167 have been tested, 15 have returned a negative result, and the remaining are pending a test result.

Of the 420 people, a significant number of these people have been referred by Healthline, so they have been given key public health information around isolating and getting tested. Of those people, 164 have been spoken to by our contact tracing team.

Wellingtonians and visitors are urged to check locations of interest visited by the infected tourist.

Locations of interest in Wellington, visited by the Australian traveller last weekend, have been published on the Ministry of Health website.

People who have been at these locations at the relevant time should immediately isolate at their home or accommodation and contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing.

There is a Health Act section 70 notice in place that places a legal requirement on all people who were at locations of interest at the relevant times to follow the instructions regarding isolation and testing.

Report from RNZ
Genomic testing results are yet to be confirmed after the weekend visit of an infected Australian tourist, but New Zealand authorities are working on the assumption it is the Delta variant of the virus. The Wellington region is now in alert level 2 until at least Sunday evening.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said this morning that Australian authorities consider the tourist’s case to be part of a cluster in Sydney.

“They do believe there is a link there. And the genome sequencing would hopefully support that conclusion.” He told Morning Report the case was likely to be the Delta variant of the virus.

Hipkins said the Australian tourist visited many locations where there were a lot of other people and “that increases the risk [of an outbreak]”.

It would be a “successful outcome” if in five days, there were no more cases identified apart from a handful of close contacts.

“The last thing we want to do is wake up on Monday morning and find out that we did not act soon enough. If we started to see unlinked community transmission – that’s a real trigger point for us.”

He said the four close contacts in New Zealand had tested negative. Test results of the person’s partner, who was also now in Australia, are yet to come in.

The testing centre in Taranaki St is fully booked for today, and another one was set up in Hataitai yesterday afternoon.

Hipkins said more sites would be added to try to get everyone who fits the criteria tested.

“I’m comfortable with the level of vaccination across the country based on the vaccine supply that we’ve got available. We’ve used up or getting very close to having used up all of the vaccines that we’ve got available to us.” He said more vaccines were expected in the next few weeks.

National Party Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop said the government was right to move Wellington to alert level 2. He told Morning Report it was a tricky situation if it was the Delta variant of the virus that was spreading in Sydney.

“The chance of spread is there. This is the cautious thing that the government has done and so we support it.”

However, he said the initial response could have been better and more could have been done the night before so fewer people would leave home for work.

As for the vaccine roll-out, he said the government needed to have a contingency plan.

“New South Wales and New Zealand have been good at doing contact tracing. The next 24 to 48 hours for New Zealand and Wellington in particular is going to be critical.

“So go and get a test if you have to, follow the public health advice, and of course we’ve got to keep scanning in.”

Report from RNZ – June 23
The Wellington region moved to alert level 2 from 6pm tonight until 11.59pm on Sunday. The restrictions will include the Kapiti Coast and the Wairarapa. The rest of New Zealand stays at Level One.

The announcement comes after a person who travelled from Sydney to Wellington tested positive for the virus upon their return. The person was in Wellington from Saturday till Monday.

“Out of an abundance of caution the Wellington region will move to alert level 2 from 6pm tonight and that will run through at this point until 11.59pm on Sunday,” said Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins this afternoon.

Alert level 2 means:

Limits on gathering size to fewer than 100 people, including tangi, church services, weddings and so on
Physical distancing in public places of 2m, and at least 1m in most other places including workplaces
Face masks remain mandatory on all public transport, and encouraged while waiting for public transport and in rideshare services and taxis as well
Businesses can open but must follow public health rules including the 100 person cap on venues
Hospitality locations must apply the three S rules
As with all levels, people with symptoms should call healthline or their doctor to seek advice on getting a test

Travel is not restricted under alert level 2 but anyone who was in the Wellington region over the weekend should keep alert level 2 behaviours if they go elsewhere.

“I want to reiterate that these are precautionary measures … first and foremost we want to ensure that New Zealanders are not exposed to Covid-19.”

On the person in question, Hipkins says they were likely to have been infected before they travelled to New Zealand.

“I want to reassure New Zealanders that we’ve always had plans in place for situations like this and that is what we are working through now. Our contact tracers have been working at pace and they have been since we were first notified of this case last night.”

He says the case, who has since returned to Sydney, was spoken to last night and again early this morning. His four close contacts were notified last night, and all four have returned preliminary negative results.

He also says the decision to pause travel with New South Wales was made before New Zealand officials were notified of the case. When the case left Sydney there were just four cases there, though that number has since grown significantly.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says authorities learnt this morning that the new case works in a healthcare setting close to Bondi Junction that is the centre of the current outbreak in Sydney. He says one of the other cases that is part of the current outbreak had been seen there.

The person had the first dose of a vaccine about 10 weeks ago and thoroughly used the Covid-19 Tracer app while visiting in New Zealand.

“Our hope is that many people who visited those venues that are locations of interest have also been using the app … however that is complementary to the information that we have put out on our website.”

He says the ministry feels confident they have identified all the locations of interest but more specific information will be provided about specific locations at Wellington airport after CCTV has been assessed.

Two of the person’s four contacts are in Palmerston North, and the other two are in Tauranga. Those in Tauranga had a much more fleeting interaction with the case. All four are isolating.

Some 58 passengers who came into Wellington from Sydney early on Saturday morning are considered close contacts and will have been contacted, Bloomfield says. They would all have been notified last night and be ringing Healthline directly.

Bloomfield says he encourages Wellingtonians and others who have been in Wellington over the weekend to check the places in the locations of interest. Some people will be required to isolate for the full 14 days.

The infected tourist stayed at Rydges Hotel in Featherston Street and spent the weekend in tourist and other places around Wellington and dining in the central city. Some of those who were on the return flight to Sydney have since returned to New Zealand and are also being contacted.

Genome sequencing is underway in Australia to see if the case is linked to the current outbreak in Sydney.

2 comments:

  1. Henry Cooke, 24. June 2021, 9:35

    The Covid situation is on a knife edge:
    – It could be a total disaster. It’s delta variant and this guy potentially exposed a LOT of people.
    – It could be completely benign. He had a dose of AZ and the first results from his close contacts are negative. [via twitter]

     
  2. Barbara McKenzie, 25. June 2021, 16:25

    All this fuss because someone tested positive according to a pcr process about which the Ministry of Health says: “A positive test cannot tell us – if the person is currently infectious – how ill the person is likely to become.”