Genome results show the infection of three Grand Millennium workers who have tested positive for Covid-19 are very closely related, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.
However, an audit of the facility has found no significant findings or any cause for concern, MIQ head Brigadier Jim Bliss says.
Last night, it was announced that a third worker at the Grand Millennium Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facility in Auckland had tested positive for Covid-19.
They are a close contact of the security guard who was reported with the virus last week and both are genomically linked to Case A, a cleaner from the facility.
Speaking at a 1pm media briefing, Dr Bloomfield says complete genomic sequencing shows a very close link with Case A and B. This shows a clear and very direct epidemiological link between the three people.
Dr Bloomfield says Case A and B are genomically identical, which suggests very direct transmission.
"We don't have the direct epidemiological connection between Cases A and B yet, they both worked at the Grand Millennium we know and we're just looking at their shift pattern ... to find that connection."
The latest case - Case C - and their partner are at the Auckland quarantine facility and the partner has returned a negative test, Dr Bloomfield says.
Case C has been in self-isolation during the infectious period, he says. The testing history of Case B is still being investigated, he says. The "period of interest" has been extended.
Dr Bloomfield this morning told Morning Report that he was awaiting information on the vaccination status of the latest case.
This afternoon he confirmed Cases C and B had not yet received a vaccine but there was no suggestion they were vaccine hesitant.
An opportunity for vaccination had been offered to Case C, Bloomfield says, but they had been unable to attend.
He says vaccination status is private to individuals, but in this case the individuals were told their status would be shared.
Case C has been wanted to be vaccinated but it may have been complicated by being in isolation, Bloomfield says.
Case B had not been tested through March, Bloomfield says. Their first test was 8 April as part of routine testing, and officials are still investigating when Case B was last tested.
"The testing history of Case B is being further investigated."
Bloomfield says 10 out of 11 plus contacts of Case B have now returned a negative Covid-19 test. The 11th is Case C.
Five out of eight close contacts have returned negative results and the remaining three are awaiting their tests, and there are nine casual plus contacts - seven have returned negative tests and the other two are not due yet.
Grand Millennium audit
Bliss confirms the audit of the Grand Millennium had found nothing of note. He says health and safety of returnees and staff remains a vital priority.
"We are managing a large operation with a diverse workforce as well as conducting an investigation."
The Grand Millennium - New Zealand's largest MIQ facility - has about 170 staff and 445 rooms, Bliss says, with 347 returnees now in the facility.
"Our workers have made personal sacrifices to keep our community safe."
Bliss says they are now focusing on the cause of the infection.
The technical advisory group will meet tomorrow to make any recommendations for the facility outside of the audit, he says.
On how the workers could have caught the virus from each other, Brigadier Bliss says the investigation is ongoing CCTV footage was being checked, who was on location and staff rostering.
"We can't determine if there's been a staff mistake."
Locations of interest
The Ministry of Health has released two new places of interest linked to the Grand Millennium outbreak.
They are Funtech on Queen Street between 5.20pm and 6.25pm on 29 March, and local Barber in Mount Roskill South between 2pm and 4pm on 7 April.
The ministry previously identified Bikanervala Dairy, White Swan Mobile, Terminus Dairy, and Bake and Beans, all in the Mount Roskill area, as places of interest.
Bloomfield says the period of interest and some locations of interest now go back to 29 March.
Case B also took three public buses in Auckland two weeks ago, and Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) this afternoon said other passengers were considered casual contacts, as the man sat away from other people and wore a mask.
Casual contacts should watch for symptoms of Covid-19.
ARPHS is working with Auckland Transport to alert passengers on these buses who had registered their HOP card with their contact details.
There will be a Covid-19 tracer app push notification as well for those who have scanned the QR code on each bus.
Bus journey details:
- Monday, 29 March: Bus 25 L, taken between 6.19am and 6.44am, from St James, Queen St (Stop 7058) to 1530 Dominion Rd, (Stop 8444)
- Saturday, 3 April (Easter Saturday): Bus 25 L, taken between 5.19pm and 5.47pm, from 1279 Dominion Rd (Stop 8445) to St James, Queen St (Stop 7058)
- Sunday, 4 April (Easter Sunday): Bus 25 L, taken between 5.13pm and 5.38pm, from 1215 Dominion Rd (Stop 8443) to St James Queen St (Stop 7058)
Bloomfield says they remain confident on the progress of the vaccine rollout and over 110,000 doses have now been administered around New Zealand.
Bloomfield says he had expected some workers would be slower to be vaccinated. He says there will be a whole range of reasons why that is the case.
Bloomfield says the border workforce is changing all the time - staff being rotated in and out - so the total number shifts. As a result, he cannot say how many on the frontline still have not been vaccinated.
Bloomfield says he is satisfied everybody at the border has had the offer and opportunity to be vaccinated.
Bloomfield says some people have turned down the vaccine and yet are still working on the frontline. He says the process to shift them into another role is under way.
The end date for border workers refusing the vaccinate would be the end of April, he says.
He says workers who have refused the vaccine are at the front of the queue to have a conversation with their employers, but will not have been required to be redeployed yet.
He does not have numbers on how many have refused, he says.
"It's not a straightforward process."
Bliss says from 1 April, every person joining the border workforce has been required to have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
There will be an update on the vaccination progress on Wednesday.
New cases at the border
Seven new cases have been reported in MIQ in the past 24 hours, Dr Bloomfield says, bringing the seven-day rolling average of new cases at the border to nine.
There is one new historical case.
Another 17 recoveries bring total active cases to 100, with total confirmed cases at 2227.
Three of those were contacts of existing contacts.
There are no new community cases.
A temporary ban on travel from India, which came after a surge in Covid-19 cases being reported at the New Zealand border, officially started at 4pm yesterday and will last until 28 April.
Yesterday there were three new cases of Covid-19 reported in managed isolation and two of them were from India.