24 Aug 2020

Nine new cases of Covid-19 in NZ today - eight linked to current cluster

1:41 pm on 24 August 2020

There are nine new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand today - eight of them linked to the Auckland cluster.

Missed the briefing? Watch it here:

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said one of the confirmed cases is an imported case that was picked up at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Auckland.

The case is a woman in her 30s and it was picked up on day 12 of testing.

The other eight cases are in the community and all epidemiologically linked with the main cluster. Among them, one is linked via travel on a bus, one at a church and two in a workplace.

There are now 1332 confirmed cases, with 351 probable cases in total.

Nineteen of the active cases are imported.

Dr Bloomfield said there are 151 cases linked to the Auckland cluster that have moved into the Auckland quarantine facility.

There are 10 people in hospital today. Two of these people are in intensive care at Middlemore Hospital.

In the past seven days, almost 100,000 tests have been processed.

There are now more than 1.77 million people (43 percent of the adult population over 15) who have signed up to the Covid Tracer app.

There are now over 313,000 QR codes that have been created.

Of the two cases over the weekend which were under investigation, one is still under investigation as an epidemiological link hasn't been found. Genome testing will be undertaken today.

The other person, whose brother travelled to Hobbiton, is believed to be an old case and Genome testing could shed further light on this, Dr Bloomfield said.

He said it was encouraging that the vast majority of the cases were linked to the current cluster.

But two of the cases give pause for thought, including the case from bus travel.

"It's important we're confident we've got that perimeter identified," Dr Bloomfield said.

It's not so much a geographical perimeter, but knowing where the cases have come from, he said.

Lower volumes of testing over the weekend will have given labs a chance to catch up.

Over the weekend, there was a total of seven new cases in the community and two new cases in managed isolation.

All Auckland tests can now be processed in the city, he said.

The exposure on the bus travel happened around 10 days ago and there may be some cases that still come through, Dr Bloomfield said.

There are three cases from bus trips, he said.

Dr Bloomfield said the newest case linked to the bus travel has been working at home ever since taking that trip.

A plan is being finalised for regular, routine testing. Spit testing is among the options being considered for this.

Dr Bloomfield said people need to get used to wearing masks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will have specific comments on mask wearing at 3pm, he said.

The government is keeping a track on the number of cases, and whether or not they are linked to the cluster, to determine the appropriate alert levels.

Bloomfield said there has been a really great response from Aucklanders as can be seen in movement data and testing numbers "but it will be an issue if it continues for a long time or we have to keep doing it (going into lockdown)."

"When we get another case, we should be able to manage it within an alert level 2 or 1 setting," he said.

Ardern is expected to make a decision on that alert levels at 3pm.

Aucklanders have been divided on the matter, but the city's mayor and businesses supported an ease of restrictions.

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