26 Jan 2021

Covid-19 update: Two new cases in managed isolation facilities

2:04 pm on 26 January 2021

There are two new cases of Covid-19 reported in managed isolation facilities in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health says.

Portrait of asian woman drive thru coronavirus covid-19 test by medical staff with PPE suit by nose swab. New normal healthcare drive thru service and medical concept.

A woman receives a Covid-19 test (stock image). Photo: 123rf.com

The ministry (MOH) issued the latest information in a statement, two days after a Northland woman tested positive for the coronavirus, sparking a major community response.

There are no new cases in the community to report, the MOH said.

One of the new cases arrived in Auckland from Japan on 24 January and the other from Portugal via the United Arab Emirates on 24 January as well.

One previously reported case has now recovered.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 65 and the total number of confirmed cases is 1934.

The MOH said 16 people have been identified as potential close contacts of the previously reported case in Northland. Of those, 15 people have so far returned negative tests, including a household contact of the case.

A total of 157 staff from the managed isolation facility at the Pullman Hotel have been tested, along with 192 guests currently in the facility. The MOH said of those, 30 still have test results to come, and all others have returned negative tests.

"Contact tracing staff are following up with 357 people who departed the managed isolation facility between 9 and 24 January. Of that number, 325 have been contacted, are isolation and have been or are being tested. The remaining former guests are being followed up today," the MOH said.

"187 people received a push notification as a result of having scanned into one of 31 locations of interest. A further location was added yesterday and is on the Ministry's website. At this time 154 people have been identified as 'casual plus' contacts, as a result of either the push notification or after speaking with Healthline following media publicity. These people are being tested and are isolating until they receive their result."

The MOH said the source investigation into how the Northland case was infected continues today at the managed isolation facility.

"This includes reviewing CCTV footage at the facility and looking at whether the infection may have occurred from person-to-person or surface transmission, or airborne transmission, including possibly the ventilation system."

The MOH defined a close contact as someone who's more likely to be at higher risk of being infected because they spent time in close proximity to a confirmed case during the case's infectious period.

It said a casual or casual plus contact is someone who has had only limited exposure to a confirmed case, usually by being in the same location of interest either at the same time or soon after a confirmed case.

Yesterday more than 1500 people were tested at community testing centres around the region. Northland DHB told the MOH that the rate of testing per 1000 people was greater for Māori than any other ethnicity in Northland.

"The high demand at our Covid-19 testing sites may mean delays, and our request is to please be patient. Extra staff from Counties Manukau and a number of volunteers are working at sites around the Northland region to support the testing centres. Frontline staff are working hard to ensure everyone who needs to be tested gets a test as soon as possible."

There was capacity to test everyone who needed a test, the MOH said.

The MOH confirmed the Northland woman contracted the B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa.

"Whole genome sequencing has identified a total of 9 samples of B.1.351, first identified in South Africa and 35 samples of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, since 13 December, as well as a number of other previously identified strains."

The lineages are all consistent with overseas exposure, it said.

"We are also continuing to monitor advice from the World Health Organisation on this variant. Currently there's limited epidemiological data available on the B. variant. What we know so far is that it may be more transmissible. There are no indications to date for any differences in disease severity or incubation times and some evidence it might evades some of the antibodies in the bodies immune response."

Meanwhile, a leading modeller of the pandemic, Auckland University professor Shaun Hendy, has suggested an additional Covid-19 test five days after a person left an MIQ facility to guard against community infection.

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