Alert levels unlikely to lift early as UK Covid-19 variant may have 'longer tail' — Ardern

Covid-19 alert level restrictions aren’t likely to lift earlier than expected, and will last for at least seven days as planned, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. 

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says further community cases may not appear until a later. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern said that’s because the UK variant of Covid-19 seems to have a “longer tail”, that is, infections may not emerge until later. 

So, even if all close contacts of one of the community cases announced yesterday tested negative, that may not prompt an earlier alert level shift. 

“It may be that we have a clear period, and we may see positives slightly later down the track,” Ardern said.

Yesterday, a 21-year-old who visited multiple places in the community while potentially infectious was confirmed as a Covid-19 case. His mother also tested positive for the virus. Both have the UK variant of Covid-19.

Contact tracers have confirmed a genomic link and labs have identified a possible epidemiological link between the two cases and another family connected to Papatoetoe High School in Auckland. 

Ardern said Cabinet would take advice from experts, including the Director-General of Health, about alert levels. 

Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the UK variant was showing some “unpredictability”. 

For example, it wasn’t until days after a case had emerged from Papatoetoe High School, connected to the initial case at the school, that a second student also connected to the initial case then tested positive, he said. 

Auckland is expected to remain at Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country at Alert Level 2 for at least seven days.