Covid-19 re-emerges in the community in New Zealand, with one new case today

There is one new case of Covid-19 in the community in New Zealand today.

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The Director-General of Health spoke to media from Wellington. Source: 1 NEWS

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed the news this afternoon.

The person with the Covid-19 infection is a man who works in ports in New Zealand, including in the last two weeks at ports in Auckland and Taranaki.

He was regularly tested as part of border testing working in the shipping industry.

He returned a negative test on October 2 but felt unwell on Friday October 16 and after contacting Healthline, took a Covid-19 test which returned a positive result yesterday afternoon.

Bloomfield said the contact tracing systems were quickly put into action.

“Because the man was tested so quickly after developing symptoms within the space of a few hours, we were able to identify and isolate his own close contacts within the space of a few hours after receiving the test result yesterday afternoon,” he said.

Bloomfield said the man was potentially infectious in the two days prior to being tested, Wednesday the 14th and Thursday the 15th of October.

Bloomfield said because of the nature of his work, the man had taken precautions to limit his contact with other people.

On October 14, the man had been at the port in Taranaki and he checked into a local motel on two different evenings. Those rooms, Bloomfield said had been deep-cleaned and CCTV footage was being used to ascertain any contacts that may have been affected.

Staff were also being offered testing.

“We do not believe there are any close contacts at these two establishments,” Bloomfield said.

He said the people he worked with on the vessel were using PPE and were being “scoped” at the moment.

That ship is on route to Napier where it arrives this afternoon, the crew on board are being treated as close contacts.

“We have the public health unit in Napier and other port authorities there working carefully and closely to get in place plans to isolate and test the crew there once they arrive.”

Bloomfield says no one on board is symptomatic at this time and no plans have been made to have workers quarantine on board the vessel.

The man travelled back from New Plymouth to Auckland on Wednesday evening and was not at work on Thursday.

Bloomfield said push notifications would be going out via the New Zealand Covid-tracer app for any potential exposure events. He said it reiterates the importance of using the app to keep a track of their movements.

The man went to work on Friday but felt unwell and contacted Healthline and was tested on the way home.

His four household contacts are in isolation, two in managed isolation and quarantine and two at home.

The man was not at the Ports of Auckland while he was infectious but testing was being “scaled up” in Ports of Auckland and Taranaki for workers there who wished to be tested, in addition to regular testing at those sites.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says while they are "keeping an open mind" as to the source of the man's infection, it isn't likely to be from another instance of community transmission. 

He says at this stage there is no need for regional lockdowns to be reimposed due to the low risk of community transmission in New Plymouth or Auckland. 

In addition to this case of in the community, two imported cases of Covid-19 were announced in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, as well as one new historical case, taking the total number of cases in New Zealand to 1530.

The historical case was announced on Friday and the individual is a recent returnee from the United States and completed their full 14 days in a MIQ facility in September. They were asymptomatic during their time in MIQ and returned two negative tests during this time.

They were released from MIQ on September 21.

“These cases can emerge after the person has a respiratory illness that is not Covid-19, such as a cold or influenza. Residual remnants of the virus can be picked up through swabbing, with inflammation often bringing forward virus particles that were not previously picked up,” the ministry said on Friday.

There are now 42 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand with one of the two cases announced yesterday in MIQ is being removed from the tally while under investigation as a potential historical case.

Bloomfield urged all New Zealanders to be vigilant about being tested for Covid-19 as soon as symptoms emerge.