The Ministry of Health says a probable case of Covid-19 in the community is a reminder of how tricky the virus is, as it releases a list of 29 locations the woman visited.
The latest probable case is a 56-year-old woman who was released from isolation at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland after testing negative twice during her stay.
After leaving isolation on 13 January she returned to her home in Northland, where she lives with her husband. The pair then travelled around Northland, visiting Dargaville, Mangawhai, Whangārei and Helensville in Auckland.
She is understood to have four close contacts, including her husband and people she came in contact within a retail setting.
Businesses and premises she visited have been published on the Ministry of Health's (MOH) website.
She visited 30 places in Northland, including Ruakaka, Whangārei, Mangawhai Heads, Maungaturoto and Parua Bay, and Helensville in Auckland between 14 and 22 January.
They include Noel Leeming, Bendon and The Warehouse in Whangārei, Eutopia Cafe in Kaiwaka, The Kauri Museum in Matakohe and Parua Bay Tavern.
The full list can be found here.
University of Auckland Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles said it's "almost certain" the woman was infectious while she was in the community.
"The contact tracing team will be working hard to identify anyone who is likely to have been exposed and is at risk of having picked up the virus. I am reassured that they will be casting their net wide and treating this as though it is one of the more infectious variants of the virus," Wiles said in a statement.
"What we have to remember, is that we should be doing everything we can to make the contact tracing team's job easier. We can do that by making a habit of using the Covid Tracer App and having Bluetooth turned on.
"Can you remember everywhere you have been over the last ten days, and when?! I know I can't, which is why I've got myself trained to use the app wherever I go."
This is advice from the Ministry of Health
- The Ministry of Health is investigating a positive case of Covid-19 in Northland
- There are approximately 30 locations where the case had been
- These locations of interest will be listed on the covid19.govt website
- The list will continue to be updated as details are confirmed, so please check the website regularly
- People who've been in these locations at potential exposure times should call Healthline about the right time to get a Covid-19 test and where
- Notifications are also being sent through the Covid Tracer App
- This is a reminder to everyone of how tricky the virus is. Everyone needs to remember to wash your hands, scan in, turn Bluetooth on and stay home if you are unwell
Probable community case 'should shake us out of our holiday smugness'
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the woman felt very mild symptoms on 15 January, but did not associate them with Covid. As her symptoms worsened, she got tested at a community testing facility.
She was scrupulous in using the Covid Tracer app, Bloomfield said.
In a statement released by the Science Media Centre, scientists said this latest case should remind New Zealanders why it's so important to use the Covid Tracer app wherever they go.
Dr Andrew Chen, Research Fellow, Koi Tū - Centre for Informed Futures, University of Auckland, said the woman did the right thing by using the QR code and having Bluetooth tracing on.
"This means that MOH can identify locations of interest quickly, and potentially alert other people who have been exposed quickly too. But for all of us to benefit from the use of this technology, we need as many people participating as possible," Chen said.
"A person with Covid-19 may not show any symptoms for a few days, but they could be contagious in that time. We have a case who may have been in the community for 10 days already. You can't just wait for the outbreak and then start scanning QR codes, you need to be scanning as a preventative measure in advance of any cases being detected in the community."
Victoria University of Wellington and Umbrella Health clinical psychologist, Dr Dougal Sutherland, said today's announcement "should serve as a slap in the face with a wet fish for New Zealanders".
"Our rates for scanning of the Covid app have plummeted over recent weeks as we bask in the complacency that we're "all good here". This positive test should serve to shake us out of our holiday smugness and remind us that Covid is still rampant and even more virulent than before."
University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy said, while the case was concerning, it wasn't the same situation as what Auckland faced in August, when the community cases couldn't be linked to the border.
"With what we know at the moment - that the person has had only four close contacts - it is unlikely that we will need another lockdown.
"But we all need to do our bit to avoid this: keep scanning, and get a test but then stay home if you have any of the symptoms or think you might you may have had contact with this case."
Hendy said Northlanders should pay attention to any potential symptoms and if they are feeling unwell, should seek a test and avoid going to work - this applied to anyone in New Zealand but was particularly important when a case had been in the community.
The origin of the woman's case is unknown, as officials await test results.
Hendy said it would be important to determine if the woman acquired the case in managed isolation, as it could mean other returnees could have been exposed. Six hundred people who were at the Pullman Hotel at the same time as the woman have been asked to stay at home and get tested for Covid-19.
All staff working at the Pullman Hotel will also be re-tested.
"It is also possible that the person has had a very long incubation period - this is rare, but not unheard of," Hendy said.
The woman spent several months travelling in Europe and working in Spain before flying from London to Auckland, arriving on 30 December.
"The genomics will also be very helpful, potentially linking the case to other returnees within MIQ or to cases overseas," Hendy said.
"It will also tell us whether we are looking at one of the new strains. These are becoming more prevalent overseas so it is certainly a possibility."
In a live update broadcast on Facebook this evening, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said work was under way using genome sequencing to determine how the woman caught the virus and that this would be known within the next 24 hours.
"We will also you up-to-date on whether any of the close contacts that we are testing come back positive or negative... tomorrow as well," she said.
Ardern also cautioned people using social media not to blame those who tested positive for the virus.
"The message I really want to share here is the most important thing for us is people, when they are unwell, continue to get tested and people are less likely to do that if they think they'll be attacked," she said.