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New Covid-19 community case is student at Auckland's Papatoetoe High School

The new Covid-19 community case announced today, a "casual-plus contact" of a person in the Auckland February cluster, was a student at Papatoetoe High School. 

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The student hasn’t been back to school since being asked to isolate and get a test. Source: 1 NEWS

The school confirmed the news on their Facebook page this afternoon.

"There is a new confirmed case from PHS and will be announced at 1.00pm. This student has not been at school this week," the school said.

"We will begin re-testing of staff and students before they leave school this afternoon. More information will be emailed this afternoon around additional testing of households."

Principal Vaughan Couillault said he was "disappointed" with the news.

"We've just got to rewind and do it all again."

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Despite today’s developments, officials aren’t yet looking at moving New Zealand’s biggest city back up alert levels. Source: 1 NEWS

Students are currently at the school until about 3.30pm, and Couillault asked parents to give them a "little breathing space" while they worked out their next steps.

The Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the case was picked up through the testing all staff and students were required to undergo before returning to school. 

Shut gates at Papatoetoe High School after another student tests positive for Covid-19. Source: 1 NEWS

All students, teachers and some members of these two groups' households are asked to be re-tested. 

Wastewater testing in the Papatoetoe region continues to return negative results, Hipkins said. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the student lives in a household of six people, including one sibling that also attends Papatoetoe High School. The household is being tested today.

Bloomfield said that sibling had also not been attending school. Papatoetoe High School shut last week in response to the initial cases, and had only re-opened yesterday to those who tested negative. 

He said the Ministry of Health became aware of the test result this morning after the student was tested in a community testing facility.

The student reported feeling muscle aches and pains, as well as a loss of smell and taste. 

Health staff are interviewing the latest case. Locations of interest for contact tracing will be released later this afternoon, he said.

Whole genome sequencing is underway for today’s case. 

"As we have said, we had anticipated there could be more cases from this outbreak. The virus tends to have a long tail," Bloomfield said.

He said it was now day 13 "since the original school exposure event" on February 10, the only day Case A, the original student who contracted the virus, attended school.

But, because some people experienced longer incubation periods for the virus, re-testing was underway, Bloomfield said. More than 97 per cent of the school's staff and students had already been tested once.

Close contacts of Case A had already been isolated, and before today, no other "casual-plus" contact tested positive for Covid-19. 

Ten students from the school who are casual-plus contacts are being followed up. Health authorities have been in contact with eight of the cases, all of whom hadn't been at school, and the remaining are being followed up. 

There are also five new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation since yesterday. 

New Zealand's total number of active Covid-19 cases is 60. 

It comes as Auckland was moved to Alert Level 1 today. 

The person had been advised to self-isolate and get tested, the Ministry of Health said earlier.

The case brings the total from the Auckland February cluster to nine after three members of an Auckland family were confirmed to have the virus on Sunday February 13, sparking a three-day Alert Level 3 lockdown for Auckland.

The ministry defines a casual plus contact as someone who has "had exposure to a case, but who do not meet the criteria of a close contact".

"Their contact occurred where there is higher risk for transmission/spread including variant cases," the ministry definition reads.