Covid update: Director-General of Health says all new cases are linked to the Auckland cluster - one is in Tokoroa; one person in ICU

Covid update: Director-General of Health says all new cases are linked to the Auckland cluster - one is in Tokoroa; one person in ICU
Ashley Bloomfield. File photo from Getty Images.

There are 5 new Covid-19 cases in the community - all linked to the Auckland outbreak, though one person is in Tokoroa.

There is one case - from Wednesday, earlier thought to be linked to the cluster - that is now regarded as under investigation. Genome testing is taking place. The person had visited St Lukes on August 12, so anybody who had been there on that day that might be symptomatic was urged to get tested.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Minister of Health Chris Hipkins provided the update on Thursday.

Bloomfield said six people were in hospital, with one now in ICU in a stable condition. Of the six, one is in Auckland City Hospital, one is in Waikato Hospital and four are at Middlemore, which is where the patient in ICU is.

There were no cases identified at the border yesterday. The total number of active cases is now 101, bringing New Zealand's total of cases to 1304. Among the active cases there are therefore 80 from in the community, of which 78 are identified as part of the Auckland cluster while two are under investigation.

One of those under investigation cases is the case of the maintenance worker at Rydges Hotel who genome testing had shown contracted the virus from a returning traveller from the United States. 

Bloomfield said evidence had very recently come to light that the worker went into a lift that the returning traveller had also gone into, only a very short time after she did - and this was now believed likely to be the way he got the virus. Probably from surface contamination.

Meanwhile, Bloomfield said testing of the Americold facilities - from where the first cases had been identified - had shown only low level virus contamination, the sort that might be expected to be caused by people who had the virus. Therefore this effectively ruled out the possibility that the virus had come into Auckland via some product at the coolstore.

Bloomfield said no further testing would be done at Americold.

The source of the outbreak therefore remains unknown. 

Testing has remained at a high level. Hipkins said there were 18,091 tests processed yesterday, bringing the total now to 657,506.

Since the "surge" in testing at the beginning of the latest outbreak, Hipkins said there had been 154,000 tests done.

More than 1.6 million people have now downloaded the tracer app.

Bloomfield said about two-thirds of the tests were being done in Auckland and the rest around the country.

At the moment the Auckland Level 3 lockdown measures are in place to August 26. A decision on extension of that or otherwise will be made by Cabinet tomorrow (Friday, 21st).

Hipkins would not be drawn on what the decision might be. 

He said they would "see what comes in overnight" and stressed that Cabinet relied on information "right up to the hour" before meeting to make these decisions.

Hipkins said current progress on fighting the outbreak was "encouraging" but he said now was "not the time to relax" and while he acknowledged the lockdown was frustrating for Aucklanders, the next few days were "critical".

The Ministry of Health subsequently issued this update summary:

There are five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to report in the community today. 

There are no new cases to report in managed isolation. 

All five of the new cases are linked to previous cases in the cluster.

Of the five cases in the community – four are Auckland based. One case is connected to the two Tokoroa cases and is currently in Waikato Hospital.

There are six people receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19. One is in Auckland City Hospital, four in Middlemore, and one in Waikato Hospital. One of the cases in Middlemore is now in ICU. All are stable.

There are 133 people linked to the cluster who have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility. This includes 65 people who have tested positive and their household contacts. 

The five new confirmed cases to report today bring our total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 1,304 which is the number we report to the World Health Organization. 

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 101.  

Of the 80 cases in the community outbreak, 78 are linked to the cluster, and two cases remain under investigation.  

The first is the maintenance worker from the Rydges facility. The second case, announced yesterday, was initially linked to the cluster. This has now been reclassified as under investigation with a link still to be established.

The latest information provided to the Ministry of Health is that this second case was at St Lukes Mall on the morning of Wednesday 12 August. Anyone visiting St Lukes Mall at that time should be alert to symptoms and contact their GP or Healthline should they become symptomatic or have health concerns.

Further investigation by Auckland Regional Public Health has identified the maintenance worker at Rydges used a lift shortly after the case from the United States used it and this is currently a strong line of investigation. 

The nurses mentioned yesterday by Air Commodore Webb have all returned negative tests. 

Contact tracing

Since 11 August, 1,996 close contacts have been identified and 1,921 have been contacted and are now self-isolating. 

We do remind people that if you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, you should not get a test unless you have been advised to do so by public health officials.

Over the last few weeks there has been a very high level of demand for testing from people without any symptoms, which has been placing our systems under unnecessary pressure.

If you do start to feel unwell, please call Healthline or your GP for advice, and they’ll let you know if you should get tested.

Testing

The number of tests completed yesterday was 18,091 bringing our total tests to date to 657,506.

Americold

An update of the environmental sampling at the Americold sites in Mt Wellington and Wiri. We expect a full report shortly. The results found no virus at the Wiri site.  

ESR did find very low levels of the virus on gauze swabs from 4 of the 35 swabs taken at the Mt Wellington site in areas that were likely to be touch zones for Americold employees who have tested positive.  No virus was found inside food packaging. 

The detected levels found in the workplace environment and on the outside of packaging were too low to allow genomic sequencing so an analysis and comparison with other samples wasn’t possible. 

This initial sampling appears to show that additional work here isn't currently warranted and it does not appear that contamination of imported chilled material packaging is a likely source of infection. 

The Ministry wishes to thank Americold here for their ongoing assistance with us, not only on this, but to the response in general.

Exemptions 

Under the current Alert Level 3 restrictions there are strict criteria around who can enter and leave Auckland.

To date, the Ministry has received more than 7,800 applications for exemptions. More than 1,000 exemptions have been granted, and 100 declined. We continue to process exemptions as fast as we can – we have increased the team capacity to manage the high volume coming in and appreciate people’s patience. 

Exemptions have been granted for example where someone needs to access medical services, provide care for a vulnerable person, visit a dying relative or move house.

We are getting applications from people who do not need to apply. Please see the covid.govt.nz website for a list of industries that are exempt.

NZ COVID Tracer 

NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded just over 1.6 million users – more than 978,500 have registered in the last nine days.

112,616 businesses now have their QR codes, an increase of 6,142 in the past 24 hours.

For any app users experiencing issues – there is an app support team you can contact on 0800 800 606 or help@covidtracer.min.health.nz.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

27 Comments

I wonder if we will now get an apology from those who were suggesting "nudge nudge wink wink"how the maintenance worker was infected?

11
up

I'm still waiting for the commentator who spread the rumour about the South Auckland family and the woman visiting her boyfriend at the quarantine facility to apologise. They posted the information here claiming they had it on good authority too. That authority it transpired was facebook, that well known and trusted source of reliable info and in no way a cess pit of the worst of human opinion, vanity and bias.

But no, they're still here, peddling more fringe theory with no concern for who they hurt.

"There is one case - from Wednesday, earlier thought to be linked to the cluster - that is now regarded as under investigation. Genome testing is taking place."

This is good to see. No shortcuts.

Bloomfield has a much perkier demeanour today. That's a good sign.

Agreed. Tracking for l2 (with masks and 10 person gatherings?) next week.

That would work for me. I feel there is almost too much of a jump in the rules between level 2 & 3. I think a lot could be said for a level 2.5

And 1.5. While the pandemic is ongoing, if we all just have a change of culture to wearing masks in public places, having compulsory use hand-sani at every entrance, exit, lift etc, having a schedule of random routine testing in the community but a tight, enforced testing schedule at the borders (not necessarily Collins offering) but rather one that the scientific community spend some time investigating and can advise on.

You make sense. It will need PR to get mask wearing in public - too many macho people saying it infringes their liberty. However there are laws preventing our exposing certain parts of our bodies in public so just add failure to wear a mask as "causing a public disturbance". All shops instructed to add $10 to every bill if no mask being worn at checkout. Free masks offered by bus drivers. A mixture of stick and carrot and public shaming. Culture can change fast.

Who knows, maybe a change in culture to mask wearing will have other positive side effects? Less flu and common cold. Perhaps entirely unexpected ones like a decline in the fashion for pumping up lips with filler and pulling duck faces? Imagine a world with no duck faces?!?!?

Moustache - had it forever. I've never worn a mask but if I had one when I'm brave enough to venture forth I would like a picture of my mouth on it - one smiling and one frowning.

The statement above says there may have been surface transmission in a lift at Rydges and yet Stuff reports there may have been transmission from a nurse to the maintenance guy.. wish they'd sing from the same sheet. Getting different versions of the story is not helpful

The nurse has tested negative so that ruled her out. Was announced in the presser. They identified the maintenance dude used the lift shortly after the infected traveler since so that gives a likely source of transmission. The stuff article is just slightly out of date.

They have ruled out transmission from the nurses. The very new information is that the worker was in the same lift as the traveller very soon after her. They believe he may therefore have got the virus from a surface in the lift.

This is good investigative work in New Zealand. We can really hone in on each case. Not many countries in the world have that luxury.

True - but does not guarantee success ; this is what NSW have been doing for the last couple of months - just holding their own it seems.

1986, i know right? I know it's a pandemic and recession and all very dire, but I freakin love the applied science in all this! Genome and Serology testing, tracking down cases. It's a lot like the Contagion movie.

The testing regime is improving. How many are positive out of the recent 50000 or so tests done...

My wife was tested on Sunday afternoon and received her all clear (thankfully) an hour ago. 3 hours short of 4 full days. Had an effect on our large family bubble. I know they are overworked but we need faster testing especially n Auckland. What would happen if there were two or three clusters not just one?

Well the scuttlebutt seems to have died down on these threads...well done team or are they just hiding today?

LOLZ for scuttlebutt.

The Americold red herring has outlived its usefulness and is now dead. A plausible explanation has been found for the Rydges case. Ashley said today that ESR was working there way back over the previous positive cases in MIQ for genome sequencing. A tacit admission that it had not been done as a rule. I guess that pre lockdown caseload of 1 per day was too much to handle. Unfortunately, the samples may all not be good enough for Genome sequencing. So we may never know if there was a link to MIQs.

Ashley said today that ESR was working there way back over the previous positive cases in MIQ for genome sequencing. A tacit admission that it had not been done as a rule.

It's nothing of the sort. They looked at them once, now they are looking at them again.

When does drowning in cynicism lead to a plunge down the rabbit hole?

Five more people have the flu. What do you think, Marshall law by October?

Yes, Marshall indeed. I've got my guitar out and I'm amped!

Heard of situations where people are anxious about contact with any person who has been to Auckland in the last few weeks. Cancellations etc.

657000 tests. Positive: 1300 (0.002%)
This is a minuscule %
Media of course do NOT present like that
The plague is at large and we are all in peril
Disgraceful scaremongering
I notice Newshub keep congratulating themselves re border testing find RE “botch up” as Lynch put it last night. Not stating that 8500 border and port tests found one positive. Pathetic