There are 5 new Covid-19 cases in the community - and one case identified in isolation, bringing a total of six new cases.
All five of the new community cases have been linked to the Auckland cluster. Also on Wednesday it was announced there would be a new group to help the Ministry of Health with border security.
There have been no further cases in relation to the so-far one-off case of the maintenance worker at Rydges Hotel in downtown Auckland whose infection had been linked through genome testing to a positive case that had returned from the United State and had been staying at Rydges.
Investigations are still under way as to how the worker contracted the virus, given that he is not believed to have had any contact with the person who actually had it. It is believed possible he got it from a contaminated surface, or alternatively perhaps through an intermediary - someone else who had caught it at Rydges. All people at the facility were tested on Friday and have now been tested again.
There are now 96 active cases, including 74 in the Auckland cluster, 21 in isolation at the border and the one case relating to Rydges.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern provided the update on Wednesday.
Bloomfield said the number of confirmed cases in New Zealand was now 1299.
There are now five people in hospital, one in Auckland city and four at Middlemore. None of the people are in ICU.
Bloomfield said testing continued at high levels with 23,038 processed on Tuesday, bringing the total number of tests to 639,415.
Over one and a half million people have now downloaded the tracer app.
Prime Minister Ardern indicated that so far the "roll out" of the "resurgence plan" was working, while acknowledging some of the changes she was announcing on Wednesday including more defence force personnel being brought into the isolation facilities and at the border.
Asked about his comments the other day about Level 1 in future possibly looking a bit more like a level 1.5, Bloomfield said the country had done will in getting down to Level 1, but his comments were to say that in future Level 1 might include us "accepting" we might have to do some things we had not done at that level before including use of masks and physical distancing in some situations.
The Ministry of Health put out the following release later on Wednesday:
There are six new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today.
One case is an imported case – a woman in her 50s who arrived in New Zealand from Qatar via Sydney on August 14. She has been in managed isolation at the Sudima Hotel in Rotorua.
The other five cases are in the community and they have all been linked to the recent outbreak.
These six new confirmed cases bring our total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 1,299, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.
There are 125 people from the community who have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 61 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their household contacts.
There are five people receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19, one in Auckland City and four in Middlemore.
A note on this, people who have COVID-19 and are in hospital are isolated and carefully managed separately from other patients. The public can be confident that our DHBs are managing this effectively, as they did in the first outbreak of COVID-19 in New Zealand. We have heard reports of people who are reluctant to get an ambulance or go to hospital – hospitals continue to be safe places to receive medical care, and people should feel confident going to hospital to receive treatment.
Yesterday our laboratories processed 23,038 tests for COVID-19.
That brings the total number of tests completed to date to 639,415.
On testing, people should only get tested if they are symptomatic, connected to a case or are concerned that they may have come into contact with a case. This will help with our lab capacity right now.
Close and casual contacts
Since August 11, we have identified 1983 close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. We have traced 1,861 of those people and they are self-isolating, and we are in the process of contacting the rest.
We are hearing reports of some confusion among people calling Healthline as to what different groups of people need to do, so we are providing clarification on that:
Close contacts are people who have had quite close exposure to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 during the case’s infectious period – for example, living in the same household or being within 2 metres of a case for 15 minutes or more. They are likely to be at a higher risk of being infected through that exposure. We are asking people who have been identified as a close contact to get a test and stay in self-isolation for 14 days to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Casual contacts are people whose exposure to a case was shorter or further away and they don’t meet the criteria for a close contact. They are likely to be at lower risk of being infected following exposure. We are asking people identified as a casual contact to monitor their health for 14 days after exposure and seek advice from their GP or Healthline if they become unwell or develop any symptoms of COVID-19.
More information on this can be found at Contact tracing for COVID-19.
Auckland is in Alert Level 3, so everyone within the Auckland city boundary is being asked to stay home unless they are an essential worker, or unless they are travelling for an essential purpose, like getting groceries or medication, or accessing medical treatment. Everyone in Auckland, and indeed all of New Zealand, should closely monitor their health – if you develop symptoms of COVID-19 please seek advice from Healthline or your GP about getting a test – this will help us stamp out any cases in our community quickly.
Genomic sequencing continues fill in more pieces of our puzzle about the route of transmission for the Managed Isolation facility maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel.
Yesterday we reported that partial genome sequencing results indicated no link to our existing community cluster.
The full genome sequencing and matching has now been completed. It found the genome type called clabe B1 is one commonly seen in the US.
There have been four positive cases in New Zealand with the virus with this genomic sequence, but the full sequencing now confirms the closest match is with the July 31 returnee from the US.
Investigations on how the worker at the Rydges became infected continue.
On a related note there has been some discussion about whether serology testing – a blood test confirming the presence of antibodies to the virus – would be useful in this and other scenarios.
Serology tests are an important part of our suite of investigation tools and we are looking at how we can use these in the most systematic, efficient and effective manner.
Serology testing of these contacts may provide another piece in the puzzle but will only tell us someone has been exposed to the virus, not which strain.
We have already used these tests to find out more information about this cluster, particularly in households to see if anyone else has had the virus.
Pak n Save
Yesterday we mentioned Pak n Save Glen Innes in Auckland as a site which had been visited by a shopper who is a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The investigation continued yesterday and further scoping revealed this person had in fact visited the supermarket once while infectious – on the 12th of August.
We apologise to Pak n Save Glen Innes and Foodstuffs if that caused any issues.
As we indicated yesterday this person was considered a low risk and employees and other shoppers are also considered to be at low risk.
NZ COVID Tracer
The total number of New Zealanders who have now registered to use NZ COVID Tracer is 1,556,138 – and more than 908,000 of those have been in the last eight days.
106,464 businesses have now got their QR codes across a total of 266,137 unique locations.
It’s been great to see the New Zealanders using the app and businesses using the QR codes.
We’ve received a high volume of requests for QR codes from businesses and the team are working through these as fast as possible. Enforcement of the order to display the codes will be pragmatic. For business, while you’re waiting, please make sure you have a suitable alternative process in place such as a pen-and-paper register.
We have had some feedback that some QR codes are displayed in places that are not easily accessible for people with disabilities. A request for businesses to please check they have at least one QR code in an easy-to-reach location with the top of the poster approximately 130cm from the ground. Ideally, this should be the poster at the entrance to your premises. Remember you can print more than one copy of your QR code.
There is advice on travel into and out of Auckland on the All of Government COVID-19 website.
Travel in and out of the Auckland region is restricted.
There are a limited number of personal exemptions being granted, such as returning home or attending a medical appointment.
There are also exemptions for work purposes – such as moving freight, emergency services, postal services or media.
People can apply for exemptions from the Ministry of Health. We are aware that there are a number of people who have lost loved ones who are applying to attend a funeral or tangihanga that requires movement either in to or out of the Auckland region.
Travel in to or out of regions at Alert Level 3 is not permitted unless some quite specific conditions are met, and an exemption is granted.
Advice for individuals seeking exemptions, the process and what information is needed to consider their request will be on our website today.
We recognise this will be challenging for families in mourning, however this is the best way to keep our communities safe and contain the spread of COVID-19.