19 Aug 2021

Covid-19 outbreak may be smaller than first expected after border link found

5:42 pm on 19 August 2021

A Covid-19 modeller says a promising link connecting the Auckland cluster to the border means the outbreak could be significantly smaller than initially feared.

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Professor Shaun Hendy. Photo: Shaun Hendy

Genome sequencing has found the current positive cases are a close match to a recent returnee from Sydney, who arrived on a managed red zone flight on 7 August.

Professor Shaun Hendy said that meant the number of people infected in the community at the time the outbreak was first detected may now be "several dozen".

"This was really positive news. The news that there's a potential genomic link to a recent returnee really does change our outlook," Hendy said.

"Obviously there's still work to be done to really nail that connection down; we don't have an epidemiological link yet to that returnee but certainly the genomic evidence is quite strong circumstantial evidence...

"But certainly the genomic evidence is quite strong circumstantial evidence and the best news is the recent returnee, it means if it has come from that person, the virus has been out in the community a far shorter time than we thought yesterday and that will bring down our estimates of numbers."

At the time the alert level 4 lockdown was announced on Tuesday evening, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said people should prepare for the number of infected people in the community to be between 50 and 120.

Hendy said it now looked like the number would be significantly less than that, estimating it could be "well below 100 cases".

"The best news is that it's that recent returnee; it means that if it has come from that person the virus has been out in the community for a far shorter time than we thought yesterday," he said,

"And that will bring down our estimates of numbers and make this cluster easier to contain."

Hendy said modelling was being re-run this afternoon and people could expect to get updated numbers later today.


This is an official Covid-19 ALERT.

All of New Zealand is now at Covid-19 alert level 4.

The alert level will be reviewed after 3 days for all areas EXCEPT Auckland & Coromandel Peninsula which is likely to remain at level 4 for an initial period of 7 days.

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For more information on Alert Level 4 go to [the government website www.covid19.govt.nz]


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