Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he’s not “worried particularly” by yesterday's three new Covid-19 cases in South Auckland as he revealed one of them, a Kmart employee, had limited customer interactions in her two days at work.
The ex-Papatoetoe High School student, who contracted the virus after being deemed a casual plus contact, worked at Kmart Botany on Friday 19 February and Saturday 20 February.
Bloomfield said she started to develop symptoms on Saturday and Ministry of Health officials investigate back 48 hours from the onset of symptoms.
“What we do is go back, she didn’t have really significant symptoms, but we are treating that whole period, anyone who has been in that store as being possibly exposed and we’re being particularly cautious here,” Bloomfield said.
“Our casual plus contacts in this case, anyone who was in the store during that eight-hour period on both days, we are asking to isolate for the full 14-day period and have two tests, not something that we would do with casual plus contacts but we are this instance.”
Bloomfield said the new case had limited customer interactions in her two shifts on Friday and Saturday.
“Less customer service, most of the time she was folding clothes in the men’s and women’s clothes areas,” Bloomfield said.
“She did a little bit of customer interface with click and collect but for very short periods but again that gives us an opportunity to identify those people who she interacted with and follow them up, we’re really going hard with this.”
The possibility of aerosol transmission of the new UK variant of the virus was making officials cautious with the method of contraction for yesterday’s first case an example of how tricky the virus is, Bloomfield said.
“I think one of the things we are seeing with this particular strain and as we get to know more about this possibility of aerosol transmission, we’re being particularly cautious,” he said.
“Even if we think about this new case that we first identified yesterday, not in the same class at school, maybe in the bathroom or the corridor which suggests just the virus in the air because we only found one other case from the same class as that original case and they spent the whole day in the same class.”
“It's behaving in a really tricky way and we’ve got to be a step ahead of it.”
While announcing the two new cases last night, the ministry said the 31 staff at Kmart Botany had been identified as close contacts.
“All the workmates are considered close contacts so they’re isolating, they went into isolation last evening and will be tested twice,” Bloomfield said.
“I just want to reiterate anyone who was in Kmart during that period we are treating as if they were close contacts so will be asking and supporting them to isolate for the full 14-day period and get two tests.”
Bloomfield said the way the Northland case was handled in January meant he wasn’t overly concerned.
“I’m not worried particularly, we have had these situations before, if we go back to Northland a few weeks ago, we had a case with this same variant who visited a large number of places of interest,” he said.
“By rapid isolation and testing, we got around it quickly and that’s what we’re aiming to do here.”