New Zealand reports new two cases of Covid-19, both from the UK
Two women, who travelled to New Zealand from the UK via Australia, have tested positive for Covid-19
New Zealand has reported two new cases of Covid-19, the first cases in the country for 24 days.
The New Zealand Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that two women from the same family, one in her 30s and the other in her 40s, were confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.
Having originally travelled from the United Kingdom, both women arrived in Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island via a flight from Brisbane on 7 June.
They stayed in a managed isolation hotel in Auckland and were permitted on compassionate grounds to leave the hotel to travel to Wellington via private vehicle on 13 June to attend the funeral of a parent.
The New Zealand Health Ministry says there was an agreed plan in place as part of the compassionate grounds, including for the travel. Both women followed all the conditions of the plan, including not having any contact with anyone on the journey or using any public facilities.
One woman experienced mild symptoms, the other was symptom-free and both presented for testing at a community assessment centre in Wellington as part of the agreed self-isolation plan. Both women are now self-isolating in the Wellington area and the family has asked for their privacy to be respected.
Following the positive test results, local public health staff are testing and isolating all others who may be at risk of exposure. In this case, that applies to one additional family member.
The Ministry of Health is managing contact follow up with potential contacts on the same flight from Brisbane to Auckland, as well as people who are or have been in the same managed isolation facility, including staff.
Staff at the facility who had close contact during the period the women were there will be stood down and tested, while footage from when the women passed through Customs and Immigration at Auckland airport will also be reviewed.
The cases are the first Covid-19 cases in 24 days in New Zealand, with the country attracting widespread acclaim for how it has dealt with the virus to date.
Earlier this month, New Zealand moved to the lowest level – Alert Level 1 – of its four-tier Covid-19 alert system.
Under Alert Level 1, there are no restrictions on movement or gatherings, schools and workplaces are permitted to open as long as they can operate safely and no social distancing is required.
Controls remain in place regarding arrivals into the country, however. Anyone who arrives in the country is tested for Covid-19 and is required to undergo a 14-day period of quarantine or isolation.
Exemptions, as was the case in the two positive cases reported on Tuesday, can be granted under special circumstances.
“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get but is also something we have expected and planned for,” said Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
“That's why we have geared up our contact tracing and testing capability to be able to respond rapidly.
“We know there are people continuing to come to New Zealand from countries where there is active community spread of Covid-19. This is managed through our requirement for two weeks in isolation at the border.”
“Compassionate exemptions are only granted if a detailed plan for self-isolation, testing and health checks in the community is agreed,” Bloomfield added.
“Everyone that is granted exemptions is assumed to present a risk of Covid-19 and all precautions are taken to manage that risk.
“We have great sympathy for families dealing with bereavements, although today’s news underscores a recent decision to not grant exemptions to attend funerals or tangihanga (traditional Maori funeral).”
The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand (reported to the World Health Organisation) is 1,156.
The combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 1,506, while the total number of recovered cases is 1,482.
22 people in New Zealand have died as a result of Covid-19.