Covid 19 coronavirus: No new cases in the community – Ashley Bloomfield, Chris Hipkins with update

There are no new Covid-19 cases in the community after a testing blitz that saw more than 6000 people swabbed yesterday.

Over the last seven days, there have been about 38,000 tests, which Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said helped provide “invaluable information” to rule out community transmission.

The level of community testing with no new cases provided reassurance for Aucklanders wanting to go away for the long weekend as long as they followed the general public health advice to use the Covid Tracer app and stay home and get a test if you’re sick, said Hipkins.

“There is no reason why people’s travel plans should change,” he said.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said “we have no evidence of community transmission.”

'Unacceptable' bedroom encounter

Hipkins said he was informed of a MIQ staffer having an encounter with a returnee after the worker delivered something to their room. There was an investigation and the staffer has lost their job.

“It’s unacceptable behaviour, absolutely.”

Hipkins said the staffer and guest were passing notes – including a message on the back of the facemask. The person was in the returnee’s room for 20 minutes but Hipkins wouldn’t confirm whether the contact included sexual relations.

Hipkins said he didn’t inform the public about the encounter because there was an investigation but did answer when the investigation was completed.

The staffer delivered a bottle of wine to the room.

The encounter was at the start of January.

“I think one person has let the team down here and that is unacceptable.”

Spotlight on the Pullman Hotel

The preliminary results of the ESR investigation into the Pullman Hotel – presently linked to three community cases – will be available at the earliest this evening with more detailed scientific advice expected at the end of next week.

On claims that two sisters from South Africa tested positive for Covid-19 during their stay at the Pullman, Bloomfield said it was believed they contracted the virus during their flight.

The two positive Ōrewa contacts – recent returnees who spent managed isolation in the Pullman Hotel but only tested positive this week -have 10 close contacts and all have returned negative results.

Hipkins said the evidence was the three people with Covid in the community had been “pretty diligent” and “largely kept to themselves” which had been very helpful to prevent community transmission.

And 249 people have received notifications from the Covid Tracer app about being at one of their locations of interest. Anyone who has been notified should isolate and contact Healthline about getting a test.

There are potentially two more additional cases at the hotel, Hipkins said.

Bloomfield said overnight ESR reported two cases in the Pullman – a case who tested positive on the 24th and someone who tested positive on the 26th – were linked and likely caught the virus in the hotel. They were both staying on the second floor of the hotel.

Of the 353 people who stayed at the Pullman Hotel alongside the positive cases, 314 people have tested negative besides the two cases – the parent and child – who tested positive.

On the 37 Pullman guests who haven’t been tested, most of them reported being tested or intending to get a test.

Hipkins said there did appear to be “something happening” at the Pullman and the results of the investigation set to be completed next week should reveal it’s “weaknesses”.

Bloomfield has asked for confirmation that they’d be tested by the end of the day.

Bloomfield said he had asked the local public health units to track down the remaining 37 which health officials “aren’t confident” have had a test.

A technical group has recommended to “reinforce” the restrictions on movement at the hotel and everyone who leaves the hotel to isolate at home and have an additional at home on day five.

There will also be additional testing of staff at the facility.

Bloomfield said he believed less than 10 people are believed to have contracted Covid-19 in isolation.

And family members of close contacts of people who’ve departed should have heightened awareness for symptoms and get tested if they notice any, said Bloomfield.

Hipkins said they were expecting “additional pressure” on the border as the pandemic continued to rage overseas.

From tomorrow, all returnees will need to stay in their rooms at MIQ facilities after their day 12 tests and prior to their departure.

The Northland case has recovered and her 11 close contacts have all continued to return negative tests and are coming towards the end of their 14 day isolation period.
Nearly 2 per cent of Northland’s population have been tested since news broke of the positive case.

Testing blitz

After five hectic days of testing across Northland and Auckland health authorities scrambled to find evidence the virus has spread in communities.

So far all positive cases, a 56-year-old Northland woman and an Ōrewa man in his 40s and his preschooler daughter, have been scientifically linked with a fellow returnee staying in managed isolation at Auckland’s Pullman hotel managed isolation facility.

A mother has also claimed that her teen daughter was infected at the Pullman after travelling from South Africa.

Results from six of 11 close contacts of the father and daughter are also expected back today. Five results had come back negative, with everyone affected isolating for a fortnight.

Genome testing has revealed all infected returnees had the same highly contagious South African strain detected in a teenage girl who stayed at the central city isolation facility at the same time.

The Pullman Hotel remains under the microscope as officials investigate how the virus spread between returnees during their mandatory two-week stint in isolation.

It has been revealed swipe card data show periods when all three cases were out of their rooms and in common areas of the hotel at the same time.

The facility is now closed to new arrivals and once all those currently isolating have left, it will undergo a hospital-grade “deep clean”.

As well as this, all returnees across all managed isolation facilities will now be required to stay in their rooms for the last two days of their time in quarantine.

The Government is also investigating “extra requirements” for those leaving MIQ facilities.

Health authorities are now awaiting results from the remaining 48 of 353 returnees that stayed at Auckland’s Pullman hotel between January 9-13, at the same time as those who were infected.

Yesterday the Australian Government announced 12 people were now in their country after staying in managed isolation at the Pullman during the infection period.

Nearly 20 locations of interest have been identified on Auckland’s North Shore and Hibiscus Coast, including supermarkets, a mall department store and a restaurant.

Hundreds of concerned people are continuing to swamp testing stations across the region, with 14,105 tests carried out in Auckland between Sunday and 3pm yesterday.

Despite this, Hipkins said the region was “not seeing any evidence of community transmission at this point”.

Yesterday Bloomfield said officials would have a very good picture by 1pm today if there was any need for public restrictions over the upcoming break.

Meanwhile, the Australian Government has extended its suspension of the one-way travel bubble with New Zealand for another 72 hours.

It is now due to end on Sunday, January 31.

There are now 69 active Covid cases in New Zealand.

Yesterday the ministry announced three new cases at the border, one from the United Kingdom and two from Japan who were contacts of an existing case.

The UK traveller arrived in Auckland via Dubai on January 23 and the infection was detected on day three of routine testing.

The pair from Japan flew into the country on January 24.

All have been shifted to the Jet Park quarantine facility.


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