Covid 19 coronavirus: Thousands await test results, Australia halts travel bubble

VIRUS LATEST:

• Covid-19 has now claimed 2.13 million lives worldwide, with a total of 99.3m cases.
• Meanwhile NZ health officials are investigating a case of the virus in the community – a woman, 56, who was infected in a managed isolation facility with the South African strain.
• Thousands of people who have had Covid-19 tests in the past two days should get their results today.
• Australia swiftly halted its travel bubble with NZ after news of the latest case.
• Audrey Young: Aussie suspension adds to Cabinet’s Covid agenda
• Cabinet meets today to discuss the latest outbreak, though Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says it’s premature to discuss a change to alert levels.
• Covid-19: Traveller’s worries over mingling at isolation hotel.
• Covid contact’s dad aghast at advice; expert responds.

Thousands of people who have had Covid-19 tests in the past two days should get their results today.

This will give a clearer picture whether the virus has spread after a 56-year-old woman tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation in Auckland travelling widely in Northland.

The case prompted thousands to queue for tests yesterday at Northland pop-up stations. Some waited in baking temperatures for more than three hours.

Health officials stressed that only those who had symptoms, or had visited the more than 30 sites the patient had visited, should seek a test.

It was confirmed last night that the woman had also visited Carpet Court and Farmers in Whangārei on January 15.

Once the results begin to come in today, New Zealand will get a clearer picture whether the virus has spread in the community or whether the country has a had a lucky escape.

The emergence of the community case appears to have prompted Australia to immediately suspend its one-way travel bubble with New Zealand for at least 72 hours.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison her Government had confidence in its processes.

“It is Australia’s decision as to how they manage their borders,” she said.

Australia also wants anyone who arrived there from New Zealand on or since January 14 to isolate and get tested for the coronavirus.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed yesterday that the woman had the South African variant of Covid, called B.1.3.5.1, which is believed to be more infectious than the original strain of coronavirus.

Hipkins said was “highly likely” the woman had contracted the virus from a fellow returnee towards the end of her stay in managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland, between January 9 and 13.

Travellers who stayed in MIQ at the Pullman between January 9 and 24 are being asked to self-isolate “immediately”.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB’s Heather Du Plessis-Allan an investigation had started to find out how the woman was infected.

He said health officials “are not leaving any rock unturned”.

While he wasn’t sure if it was the case at the Pullman, he said some managed isolation facilities put occupants in vans to transport them to the location where they can complete their physical activity.

“That would be of course one of the places we would be looking.”

He said the investigation would review what mix of people travelled in the vans.

“Whether they are people, some of whom might have arrived just recently, tested negative, but … mixed with people who’ve been there a while, and I guess that is one of the opportunities there could be for cross-infection so we’d want to just shut that down.”

The woman, who lives just south of Whangārei, had travelled to a number of places around southern Northland. Her frequent use of the Covid-19 scanning app has been praised by health officials.

Calls to Healthline’s dedicated Covid-19 hotline have more than quadrupled with just over 206 on Saturday, January 24, to 992 on Sunday, January 25, with increased wait times for callers.

The average wait time for the Covid Information Line in December 2020 was 1 minute and 6 seconds, but by Sunday, it was up to 38 minutes.

Whangarei District Council said it was aware of long queues and congestion around testing sites in Kamo, Riverside and Ruakākā and encouraged people to be patient.


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