18 Oct 2020

One new community case of Covid-19 in NZ today, Bloomfield confirms

5:20 pm on 18 October 2020

There is one new community case of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

Watch the update here:

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says the case has been caught early and the risk is contained.

Dr Bloomfield said the person was a man who works on ships that have been at the Ports of Auckland and Port Taranaki.

He said the man had been getting regular Covid tests every fortnight.

He returned a negative test on 2 October, on Friday 16 October he developed respiratory symptoms, Dr Bloomfield said.

He said the test returned a positive result on Saturday.

Close contacts of the man were either self-isolating or have gone into quarantine.

"Because the person was tested on the day he was developing symptoms, the Ministry of Health was able to self-isolate close contacts, which is a good reminder to the rest of New Zealanders for best practice," Dr Bloomfield says.

He was potentially infectious on Wednesday 14 October and Thursday 15 October, he said.

Dr Bloomfield said the man was in New Plymouth working on a ship at the port there on Wednesday 14 October. He was staying at a local motel and hotel on two different evenings.

The motel and hotel have been advised to undergo a deep clean in the rooms he used and staff have been asked to get tested.

It's not believed the man had close contact with anyone at the motel and hotel, Dr Bloomfield says.

His close contacts with colleagues in New Plymouth at the port are being tracked down.

The ship that he was working on in New Plymouth is due to arrive in Napier today. Public health units will be on hand to undergo tests when it arrives at the port. The Ministry of Health has been in contact with the ship and none of the staff are symptomatic, Dr Bloomfield said.

He said the man arrived back in Auckland on Wednesday evening, he was not at work on Thursday, he was at home.

The Ministry of Health is preparing to send push notifications through the NZ Covid Tracer app to anyone who came into potential contact with the man.

The man was not at the Ports of Auckland during his infectious period, Dr Bloomfield said.

He said the Ministry of Health is scaling up testing resources in Taranaki.

Speaking at a media conference today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was nothing from today's new case of community transmission that suggests the country needed to change Covid-19 alert levels.

"It is an example of the system working. I'm absolutely confident we have done everything as we would usually do here."

But the Maritime Union said the new positive case of Covid-19 vindicated their concern for those working at the border.

National secretary Joe Fleetwood said if the system was working as the Ministry of Health has claimed, there would not be a case.

The union believes the system is not foolproof and still relies on workers to do the right thing and get tested.

They want a reduced number of international ports in the country to limit entry points for the virus.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said today's new case is a reminder for people to continue to follow official health guidelines.

He said there is ongoing risk of transmission at the border but this case appeared to have been detected early.

No caption

Photo: RNZ

There are also two imported cases of Covid-19 today.

Also one new historical case to report - this was first reported on Friday as a possible case and is now confirmed. The infection happened prior to the person coming to New Zealand and they have since recovered.

One case from managed isolation reported yesterday is now recategorised as under investigation as a possible historical case.

The total number of confirmed cases is now 1530.

The total number of active cases is 42.

One of the new imported cases is a person who arrived in New Zealand on 5 October from the UK via Dubai, they tested positive around day 12, the second case is someone who arrived from Dubai on 13 October, they tested positive around day three of their stay.

Both have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

There were 3390 Covid-19 processed yesterday.

Dr Bloomfield said this new case was a reminder that Covid-19 was not going away anytime soon: "However effective our response might have been to date, the only thing that matters is how effective it is now and into the future. We all need to play our part to eliminate community transmission of the virus each time we find it."

He said it was unlikely the ship the man with community transmission worked on on Wednesday 14 October in New Plymouth was the source of the Covid transmission.

That's because the incubation period would be too short, he said.

Dr Bloomfield said the ships the man works with have international crews but the crew doesn't get shore leave. He says any people from the mainland who enter the ship have to wear PPE when on board the vessel.

He said the ship the man worked on in Taranaki had previously been to Lyttleton and Auckland.

He said the risk to people in New Plymouth was very low - he had very little contact with members of the public there.

Dr Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health will review if they need to alter their testing regime at ports in relation to the new case.

This case is likely connected to the border and there is no evidence of any onward community transmission at this point, he said.

Yesterday there were three new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand, all in managed isolation.

Scientist calls for masks

Dr Amanda Kvalsvig from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago said the new community case reinforced the need for the government to review the evidence on mask wearing urgently.

She wanted to see masks used on public transport from alert level 1 on up.

"There may also be value in requiring some individuals to wear a mask while in transit through communities if they're in a high-risk occupation, and this possibility should be explored in the light of the current case," Dr Kvalsvig said.

No caption

Siouxsie Wiles Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The country could not afford to rely on good luck to prevent the re-emergence of community transmission, she said.

Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles said the latest case was both an example of New Zealand's border controls working as intended and the tricky nature of the virus.

"While using PPE helps to limit the spread of Covid-19, it is not an impenetrable defence. Hence the routine testing, and border workers seeking a test if they feel unwell."

She praised the man for getting tested so fast and thus limiting the risk of the virus spreading any further.

The director of Te Pūnaha Matatini, Professor Shaun Hendy, said the case was a reminder that we all needed to be vigilant.

"We need to keep getting tested if we develop any of the symptoms of Covid-19, keep up our use of the app, and remember to take our basic hygiene precautions."

"This latest case is both an example of our border controls working as intended and the tricky nature of the virus. While using PPE helps to limit the spread of COVID-19, it is not an impenetrable defence."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs