The new community Covid case identified as South African Variant

The new community Covid case identified as South African Variant

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Wellington, January 25, 2021

Chris Hipkins: No big surge in cases (RNZ Photo by Samuel Rillstone)

The Ministry of Health is confident that the Northland Covid-19 community case came directly from Pullman Hotel in Auckland and that there is no missing link.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed at a press conference today that the strain of Covid-19 in the case is from the new South African Variant.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that a decision was made to delay the release of 46 people from Pullman Hotel. They will be tested again before being released.

Mr Hipkins said that those released since the 56-year-old woman left the Hotel, which is one of the Managed Isolation Quarantine facility, were being contacted

Dr Bloomfield said that there were six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation today and that 15 people were being treated as close contacts of the new case.

Hundreds stay at home

It was revealed yesterday that the woman tested positive for the virus after travelling widely in the region.

The Northland Chamber of Commerce predicted hundreds of staff would not come into work today after the woman visited about 30 locations across lower Northland and north Auckland.

Director General of Health Dr Ashely Bloomfield (RNZ Picture by Samuel Rillstone)

Earlier this morning, Mr Hipkins said that the results for the woman’s husband and hairdresser have come back negative.

Infectious Disease Expert Michael Baker said that it is unlikely the woman caught the virus while she was in Europe.

The following is from an earlier RNZ Report:

Two of the closest contacts of a woman who tested positive for Covid-19 in Northland after leaving managed isolation have tested negative.

The 56-year-old woman travelled around parts of Northland and visited 30 businesses over nine days while unknowingly having coronavirus.

Test Results awaited

Mr Hipkins told Morning Report that the results for the woman’s husband and hairdresser have since come back negative.

“So, that is some good news to start the day. Her husband would without doubt be her closest contact – that coming back negative is a good sign and so, we will know more as the day unfolds as to what the overall risk of this case is,” he said.

He said that the woman had six close contacts in total and that they are all isolating while awaiting test results. Other casual contacts who have been in the same place at the same time are regarded as “casual plus” contacts, who are being asked to isolate after taking tests.

Mr Hipkins said that it could be up to 48 hours before there is enough information to make any calls on changing alert levels.

He is hopeful genome sequencing will be completed today to determine the source of the case.

He praised the woman for using the Covid Tracer App and restricting her movements and close contacts since leaving managed isolation.

Delay in release of information explained

He defended the time it took to release the names of all the businesses involved.

It was published at 7.30pm yesterday after the Ministry contacted them all. In the past it had caused alarm when the media had contacted some businesses before they knew they had been visited by a Covid case, Hipkins said.

Longer stays in isolation

He said that before Christmas, the government looked at whether longer quarantine periods and self-quarantine at home might be justified.

“The advice at that time was that would not be justified – now obviously we keep that under review,” he said.

If the source of the virus showed it had a long incubation period, if it had been brought back from abroad, they might need to have another look at changes to MIQ.

If it was a result of cross-contamination within the isolation facility, authorities would look at fixing this.

More than 100,000 people had gone through the system so far, Mr Hipkins said.

“Not one of them has subsequently taken Covid-19 out into the community with them. A longer quarantine period would be an option only if the source of the case proved to be from abroad. There has not been a notable increase … we are not seeing a big surge in the number of cases coming through,” he said.

Legal obligation

There was a legal obligation on the government to allow New Zealanders to return home.

The policy was to try and keep planeloads of people together in managed isolation because transmission within planes has been a problem.

“If you were isolating out the people who came from the US, the UK or South Africa and then separated them out from others you might potentially increase the risk. The safest thing to do is to keep each planeload together because we know that is one of sources of infection is the plane journey itself,” Mr Hipkins said.

Appeal to doctors

The College of General Practitioners has sent a message to its 5500 members this morning telling them to ramp up Covid-19 testing, in response to the new case of community spread.

The college said that GPs were crucial to helping keep the disease from taking hold in New Zealand.

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