A 56-year-old woman who recently did 14 days of managed isolation in Auckland's Pullman Hotel has tested positive for Covid about a week after release from isolation.
In the meantime she and her husband visited over 30 locations in the southern part of Northland. They were travelling around and having a holiday as they had not seen each other for four months. (Location list also at bottom of this article.)
The woman had twice tested negative for Covid prior to leaving isolation in Auckland.
The Ministry of Health is still gathering information on the case and will soon advise of the 30 locations, which included in the Mangawhai and Dargaville areas as well as Whangarei. The woman lives south of Whangarei and is currently in isolation, as is her husband, who has been tested. She had also had four close contacts during this period. These people were now isolating.
At a briefing in Wellington on Sunday Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the woman had been scrupulous about scanning with the app and so the Ministry was quickly able to start contacting the various places.
The woman had been in Spain and the Netherlands, before travelling from London, via Singapore and arriving in Auckland on December 30.
Hipkins said he didn't want to speculate at this stage about Alert levels.
"Until we've got a clear picture we just ask people to do what they have been doing all along," he said.
Bloomfield was asking anybody who had been to any of the locations the woman visited to isolate. And get a test if they felt unwell.
Bloomfield said the Ministry was making the assumption that this case may well be one of the new more easily transmissible 'variants' now spreading quickly globally. Genome testing is expected to be completed within 24 hours. Extra testing facilities are being set up in Northland.
Additionally, about 600 people who had been through the Pullman in the period from when the woman first arrived on December 30 were now being contacted.
Bloomfield confirmed that there had been about 12-14 positive cases at the Pullman during that time and this had included cases of both the UK and South African variants.
The last reported cases of community transmission prior to this were in mid-November.
Ahead of the media briefing, ACT leader David Seymour said if the Covid case in Northland turns out to be community transmission "the Government’s overarching objective must be avoiding another lockdown".
“The best news would be that this is a false alarm, but if it’s not then a number of things have to happen very quickly to protect the community."
Seymour said mass testing would need to be rolled out.
“We know very few people in Northland have been getting tested, with Ministry of Health statistics show only 282 tests were carried out over the past week, down from 328 the week before.
“This will also be a huge test of whether tracking and tracing has improved since the system was last tested in August.
“We hope the Government succeeds in containing any cases as soon as possible.”
Earlier on Sunday the Ministry of Health had reported eight new cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation since the last update had been provided on Friday. Among these cases, two people had come from each of the US and South Africa, with one case coming from each of the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and India.
One previously reported case had now recovered, leaving the total number of active cases in New Zealand at 79. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,927.
The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,487,234 and the seven-day rolling average up to Saturday is 3,335 tests processed.
The Ministry says the NZ Covid Tracer now has 2,459,398 registered users.
Poster scans have reached 158,388,381 and users have created 6,393,135 manual diary entries.
This is the release the Ministry issued on Sunday evening:
Probable case of COVID-19 in a returnee
24 January 2021
The Ministry of Health is investigating a positive test result in a person who recently travelled from overseas and completed their stay in managed isolation in a facility in Auckland.
In the case we are investigating and reporting today, the person had travelled in Spain and the Netherlands late last year for work.
While in the Netherlands she was in contact with family members, who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
The person left the United Kingdom en route to New Zealand, travelling via Singapore, arriving in Auckland on 30 December.
She carried out the required 14 days in managed isolation at the Pullman in Auckland and returned two negative tests as part of routine testing – one on 2 January and one on 10 January.
After meeting the final health assessment for release, she left managed isolation on 13 January and travelled home to the Northland region. She lives with one other person who has not been symptomatic, who has been tested and is also isolating while awaiting results.
The person started developing mild symptoms on 15 January and these progressively got worse. The person had a test taken on Friday 22 January and self-isolated at home.
Late last night the result was returned as positive for COVID-19. Further testing is needed, including a serology blood test, to confirm whether the case is new or historical. However, the CT value from the initial test suggests that it is new and we are treating it as such.
We are undertaking rapid genome sequencing to see if there’s a match to other cases in the managed isolation facility as well as to whether the person has one of the more transmissible variants we’ve seen reported recently.
Importantly, we are working on the assumption any case might be a more transmissible variant and are taking appropriate precautions.
It is too early to say where this infection has occurred — we hope further testing and investigation will help to confirm this.
This is a reminder to us all of how COVID-19 is an extremely difficult virus to manage, as we’ve seen overseas and here in New Zealand.
Movements in the community
As part of the investigative process carried out by the public health unit, the person was able to provide thorough details on where they had been since departing managed isolation. Four close contacts are being tested and are required to isolate for a full 14 days since their last exposure.
The person visited a number of places in the Northland region on departing managed isolation and went to around 30 locations. Importantly the person has been vigilant in using the COVID TRACER app since leaving MIF and we have been able to rapidly identify these locations and are in the process of notifying them.
The names and relevant dates and times will be publicised and COVID Tracer app notifications issued.
The alert will advise users that they may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. The 30 locations will be listed on the Ministry’s website as soon as the businesses are informed.https://www.health.
govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and- conditions/covid-19-novel- coronavirus/covid-19-health- advice-public/contact-tracing- covid-19/covid-19-contact- tracing-locations-interest
For contact tracing purposes, anyone who attended one of the locations listed during the relevant timeframes is considered has a low risk of exposure however we are asking all those people to isolate and call Healthline about when and where to get a test. If you have any symptoms, get a test promptly.
Close contacts have been contacted directly.
This is a clear reminder of how important it is to use the COVID Tracer app to scan QR codes and turn on Bluetooth functionality. Turning on Bluetooth functionality will allow you to receive an alert if you have been near another app user who tests positive for COVID-19.
Community testing stations
Northland and Auckland health officials are working to provide additional testing in the area,
Community testing is available from 4-8pm today in Whangarei - CBAC, 20 Winger Crescent, Kamo, Whangarei. For further information about other community testing sites in the area please go to
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has a full list of after hours/weekend testing and community testing centres throughout the region here https://www.arphs.health.nz/
Also remember to stay home if you are unwell, maintain stringent hygiene practices, including washing and drying your hands and cough or sneeze into your elbow. Contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or call your GP to see if you need to have a test.