23 Sep 2020

Three new cases of Covid-19 today, six historical cases reported

1:51 pm on 23 September 2020

There are three new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today and for the first time six historical cases are being reported.

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Photo: RNZ / Harry Lock

In a statement just before 1.30pm, the Ministry of health says the historical cases are made up of one confirmed case dating back to 21 February - making it the earliest known case of Covid-19 in New Zealand - and five probable historical cases connected to the case also dating back to February.

None of the new community cases are connected to the Auckland August community cluster, it says.

The three new community cases are a family group linked to a previously reported Christchurch to Auckland chartered flight. The ministry says they have been self-isolating over the last three days.

There were 86 people on the charter flight: "All have been contacted and are either in the process of being tested or have been tested. Sixty-three have returned a negative test."

"In tracing this man's history and how he became infected, we can update that one of two remaining cases from his earlier Delhi-Fiji flight has now been sequenced and been shown to be a close match. The second result is still pending."

"We continue to investigate how his infection may have come about."

There was no press conference today.

The ministry says there are 37 people isolating in the Auckland quarantine facility from the community, which includes 17 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their household contacts.

Three people are in hospital - one each at Auckland City, Middlemore and North Shore hospitals. All three patients are in isolation on a general ward.

"Since August 11, our contact tracing team has identified 4,014 close contacts of cases, of which 4,006 have been contacted and are self-isolating or have completed self-isolation. We are in the process of contacting the rest."

Three previously reported cases have now recovered from Covid-19.

The total number of active cases is 62, 28 of those are imported cases in MIQ facilities, and 34 are community cases.

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand is now 1,468.

There were 6,938 Covid tests processed yesterday, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 924,637.

Historical Waikato cluster

The ministry says the six historical cases present no risk to the public.

"This infection occurred in late February following exposure to an infected person from Italy (another family member)."

"At the time the family member was visiting New Zealand, they became ill with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, and the wider household then also became ill."

"At the time, they did not meet the case definition for testing for people with defined symptoms who had travelled from or transited through China. Italy had not at that point been identified as a country of concern. This meant the New Zealand household was not tested at the time."

The ministry says today's historical confirmed case (a man) recently developed a sore throat and sought testing. The weak positive result, combined with serology test results and case history, is consistent with an old infection.

It says at this stage, only the man will be counted as a confirmed case as he has returned a weak positive result on the PCR test. The other family members will be recorded as probable cases.

"This would mean that the infected family member from Italy is effectively now the first case we are aware of in New Zealand, as they have reported having symptoms on arrival on 21 February, a week before our first reported case on 28 February."

"Consequently, the other household cases would represent the first locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, given the onset of symptoms from 29 February for the confirmed case."

Further investigation will continue, it says.

And close contacts of the man during his recent mild illness have been tested as a precaution and have returned negative tests.

It is known that some people can return a positive PCR test long after they have recovered from the illness and are no longer infectious, says the ministry.

Yesterday there were no new cases in New Zealand.

A handful of historical Covid-19 cases have returned weak positive tests in New Zealand, and Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Morning Report we may see more, but he's confident they're not infectious.

Meanwhile some family doctors are upset about what they say is an inadequate supply of vital personal protective equipment (PPE).

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