21 Apr 2021

Covid-19 update: Ministry of Health explains how Auckland Airport worker got Covid-19

2:43 pm on 21 April 2021

The Ministry of Health says there is no risk after an Auckland Airport worker tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday.

Watch the update here:

Hipkins says whole genome sequencing received last night shows the Auckland Airport worker, who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, is highly likely linked to a case that arrived on the 10 April.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed the worker did clean the plane that the other case arrived on.

Last night the ministry said 16 close contacts of the airport worker had been identified.

Dr McElnay says the airport worker has been very helpful in identifying their movements in the last few days and has identified 25 close contacts.

The seven tested so far have returned a negative result, she says.

The ministry previously said Auckland Airport was the person's sole employer, and their role was non-public-facing.

The person works cleaning planes from places including red-zone countries as well as green-zone countries such as Australia, but the ministry has assessed that there is no risk.

McElnay says while there is a clear link between the airport worker and a case of Covid-19, they are still investigating how they became infected.

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously said the worker was fully vaccinated, but added that people could still get Covid-19 despite that.

Asked if it's acceptable for the cleaner to have cleaned both red- and green-zone planes, Hipkins says there are measures - common between New Zealand and Australia - so that a worker cannot move from a red-zone to a green zone in a single shift.

"Ultimately the risk of someone who is cleaning a plane, the chances of them passing on an infection is minimal if there is any at all. The chances of them picking up the virus of course is minimal as well.

"We will consider changing the system if the investigation highlights that there is a need to change the system."

On today's numbers, Dr McElnay says one case has been detected in MIQ facilities, arriving from Switzerland via Qatar on 19 April.

Also in this afternoon's update, Hipkins confirms he has received his second Covid-19 vaccine.

He says 183,351 doses of the vaccine have been administered to date, 140,580 people have had a first dose, and 42,771 have had a second dose.

Some 41 percent of first-dose vaccinations were in Auckland, 19 percent of whom are Māori or Pasifika, he says.

Vaccinations have been across 142 different sites with about 1200 vaccinators so far. More than 2500 people have completed the vaccinator training.

Across New Zealand, 12,697 Māori have received their first vaccine, with 4343 of those having also received a second dose.

Hipkins says of the 16314 of the estimated 50,000 border workers' family contacts have been vaccinated.

"I would like that number to be higher ... please do come forward and get those vaccinations."

Group 2 vaccines are proceeding well, Hipkins says.

He says 104,596 first doses have been given to that group with 21,791 of those now fully vaccinated.

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Stocks of the Pfizer vaccine continue to build, with another shipment of over 78,000 vaccines bringing total vaccines in New Zealand to 685,620.

Hipkins says he is writing to all employers of the border worker scheme to remind them that all border workers need to be tested.

"It is an essential employer responsibility ... only employers are in the position to ensure that 100 percent of those who need to be tested are being tested."

He says more information is being increasingly pushed out to encourage people to take up the vaccine.

Hipkins is also warning against a specific conspiracy theory.

"I am usually reluctant in this forum to talk about conspiracy theories, but I do want to address one of those today.

"I am aware that there are people handing out ... printed material that undermines mask wearing on public transport. They've been particularly active in the Wellington region, they've been handing out mask exemption cards that are based on the official exemption cards that area avail to those who need them and they are handing out a pamphlet which whilst it looks professional has a lot of information in it that is factually wrong and potentially dangerous."

"My message to all those coming through the Wellington train station is that if you receive one of these pamphlets the Wellington train station has helpfully provided a variety of receptacles for them - they are called the rubbish bins."

He says the group's actions are highly disrespectful to the small number of people who genuinely need an exemption to wearing a mask such as a health or disability reason.

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