Four close contacts have been confirmed in Wellington after a recently-confirmed Covid-19 case travelled from Sydney to New Zealand's capital over the weekend.
The person arrived just after midnight on Saturday before flying back to Sydney just after 10am on Monday morning, NSW Health confirmed yesterday evening. They subsequently tested positive in New South Wales.
Anyone on Qantas flight QF163 and Air New Zealand NZ247 are considered "close contacts" and have been told by NSW Health to isolate immediately for 14 days and get a test.
The Ministry of Health said this morning the case was an Australian traveller and it is most likely they contracted the virus in Sydney prior to visiting New Zealand.
"This is the first time an Australian traveller has brought Covid-19 to New Zealand, and since gone home," a spokesman said.
Health Minister Andrew Little told Breakfast it was still unknown if the case was the Delta variant.
Genome sequencing of the case had began yesterday, he said.
The genome sequencing underway in Australia would determine if the case was linked to Sydney's current outbreak.
Four close contacts have been identified in relation to the case's movements while in Wellington itself.
They are isolating.
The ministry said locations of interest would be advised as further contact tracing is undertaken.
Health authorities in NSW would be contacting those on the return flight to Sydney to provide advice about testing and isolation.
The ministry said passengers on both flights needed to isolate immediately at their home or accommodation and contact Healthline for advice on testing and isolating.
Air NZ said after it was alerted last night to the case and the operating crew on its flight had been asked to self-isolate and get a test.
"The aircraft was cleaned per our usual standards upon arrival into Sydney and then again yesterday evening," a spokeswoman said.
The news came just hours after quarantine-free travel with New South Wales was paused for 72 hours following the state's recent outbreak.
The Bondi cluster has grown to 21 cases, with 10 new cases announced yesterday.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker said the flight into Wellington adds two additional contact tracing challenges for New Zealand.
This is because all passengers on the flight had to be traced and then the case's movements while they were in Wellington.
He hoped the risk of infection for the passengers on the flight was relatively low if they were wearing masks onboard.
The case's contacts in Wellington "may be a much bigger problem", he said, as health authorities did not know yet who they are, how many are involved, and the degree of contact.
"They were probably not wearing masks so the risk of infection will be higher."
National leader Judith Collins told Breakfast despite the case, the trans-Tasman bubble was working.
"We can’t just be shut off for ever and actually this is the bubble working properly, where we can actually say well this has happened and we can let people know."
The flights the case travelled on are:
- Sydney to Wellington — QF163 (Qantas): Departed Sydney, Friday June 18 at 7.05pm (AEST), arrived in Wellington on Saturday, June 19 at 12.12am (NZST).
- Wellington to Sydney — NZ247 (Air New Zealand): Departed Wellington, Monday June 21 at 10.13am (NZST), arrived in Sydney on Monday, June 21 at 11.33am (AEST).