18 Aug 2020

Covid-19: 13 new cases of Covid-19 in community today

9:07 pm on 18 August 2020

There are 13 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the community today and no new cases in managed isolation facilities.

You can watch back the media conference here:

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says 12 of the new cases are linked to the community cases and one is under investigation but is believed to be linked.

The new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 1293, and one previously reported probable case is now under investigation.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported nine new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the community.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is currently 90, of which 69 are from the recent community outbreak, there is one further community case and 20 imported cases in quarantine.

Dr Bloomfield says 98 people linked to the cluster have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility, that includes 44 people who have tested positive and the balance are household contacts.

Six people are receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19 - two in Auckland City Hospital and four in Middlemore. None are requiring intensive care.

Genome sequencing will be done on all new cases, Dr Bloomfield says.

Follow the latest on RNZ's live blog

Investigation on case not linked to cluster

Dr Bloomfield says genomic sequencing has provided more information on two cases of Covid-19 that were under investigation.

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

He says they have been able to genomically link the household of five positive cases - one of those is currently in Auckland Hospital - to the existing cluster.

"This gives us a high level of reassurance that these people are part of the same community cluster rather than it being a separate cluster."

The second case is a man who is a maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel, one of the managed isolation hotels.

The worker carries out maintenance tasks on the rooms there, Dr Bloomfield says. He says the person tested positive on 16 August and the genome sequencing indicates it's not linked to the outbreak in the community but rather a positive case that was in the Rydges and identified on the 31 July - a returnee from the USA.

Asked about what theories there are how the worker became infected, Dr Bloomfield says it could be a number of things. It could be through human-to-human transmission directly or it could be through environmental contamination, he says.

On whether there will be another cluster from the US case, Minister of Health Chris Hipkins says "at this stage it is contained, just one person ... the household and work contacts have come back negative."

Dr Bloomfield added that casual contacts of the person from a church service are also being contacted. He says it seems very well contained.

"Little bit of a mystery here, one that we will be investigating to find out."

"It does show that this is a highly contagious virus that is easy to get," Hipkins says.

"Even if you have the very best protective measures in place there is no 100 percent guarantee [you'll be protected from the virus]."

On contact tracing he says since 11 August, 1880 close contacts have been identified and 1691 of those have been contacted and are self-isolating and have either been tested or are waiting for testing. The rest will be contacted, he says.

Dr Bloomfield revealed there are two more locations of interest - one is Pak 'n' Save on Apirana Avenue in Glen Innes, Auckland. A confirmed case visited the supermarket a number of times between 31 July between 10.09am and 8 August at 10.10am.

Auckland Regional Public Health later confirmed that customer only made one visit and had no symptoms at the time, so the risk to staff and other customers was considered low.

"Updated advice from ARPHS to customers is that if you were in the store at any time on Wednesday 12th August, please be vigilant for Covid-19 symptoms, and get tested if you develop any... symptoms"

The other location is the Mt Roskill Primary School - the confirmed case was there between 1.40pm on 10 August and 1.40pm on 11 August.

Dr Bloomfield says people who were in these locations just have to be aware of symptoms.

On Americold environmental testing, where one of the first cases in the community outbreak was identified, Dr Bloomfield says a final report is expected to be completed this week.

He says the Americold worker, whose case helped highlight the country had community transmissionm does seem to be the first case in the cluster.

He says that the possibility that the route of transmission could have been through chilled services on materials arriving from overseas is being ruled out.

Testing and contact tracing efforts

The NZ Covid Tracer app is just shy of 1.5 million users.

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins.

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says over the last five days more than 100,000 Covid-19 tests have been processed, 18,421 of those were processed yesterday.

Hipkins says lab workers are working incredibly long hours.

Exhausted lab staff working long hours testing for Covid-19 are warning safety could be compromised if the huge demand continues. On Monday, laboratories processed more than 26,000 tests and many lab workers are doing 12-hour shifts to keep up.

Hipkins says more than 3485 workers at ports around New Zealand have been tested. In managed isolation and quarantine facilities, 2806 tests have been completed 97 percent of the workforce in Auckland.

Questions have continued over border staff testing and this morning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report the government's expectation was for asymptomatic rolling testing, and that was what they had instructed.

"What I'm interested in is that every single frontline border staff member is routinely tested and is compelled to be on a routine basis," she said.

On the exemptions process of getting into Auckland, Dr Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health has received more than 5000 applications so far, with 700 granted, 160 declined and the rest are being worked through.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

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