Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says genome testing has shown the new community case has the South African 'variant' of the virus

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says genome testing has shown the new community case has the South African 'variant' of the virus

Genome testing has shown that the Northland woman who tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend has the new South African 'variant' of the virus and caught it from someone who was staying on the same floor of the Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility in Auckland.

This was confirmed by Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield in a joint media briefing in Wellington on Monday.

"This is good news because we know where the source of the infection is," Hipkins said.

He said that the 56-year-old Northland woman had been staying on the same floor of the Pullman and "in close proximity" to someone who had arrived towards the end of her stay and had ultimately tested positive to Covid after three days in isolation. In the meantime the Northland woman, having tested negative twice, had been released.

Both the South African and UK new variants of Covid are said to be more transmissible though no evidence they were more severe. Bloomfield said there was "some evidence" the South African variant may evade "some aspects" of the immune response more so than earlier strains of the virus.

Hipkins said there was now consideration being given to restricting the movements of returnees when they were getting to the end of their time in isolation.

Hipkins said that 46 travel returnees who were staying in the Pullman at the same time were now having their release delayed and would be "staying a little longer" and getting an extra test done before release.

Of 253 people who were at the Pullman during the time the Northland woman was there and had been subsequently released, 172 had been contacted already and were being told to self isolate and get a test.

Among the Pullman's 220 staff, 114 had already been tested with the remainder to be tested later on Monday.

Hipkins said the possibility of getting new filtration systems in the isolation facilities was being looked at.

In terms of contacts of the woman, her husband and her hairdresser had already tested negative, while there were 13 other identified close contacts who were now in isolation.

Bloomfield said there were 17 additional testing centres set up in Northland and Auckland and these were in "high demand".

He stressed that only people who were in the locations of interest or were feeling unwell should be prioritised.

"There are a lot of people turning up who are neither symptomatic nor were they at those locations."

As an example of the surging numbers seeking testing, Bloomfield said by 11am on Monday 1000 people had been tested in Auckland, compared with about 200 at the same time a week ago. 

About 200,000 people had turned on the Bluetooth function for the tracer app since Sunday.

Separately, Bloomfield said there had been six cases of Covid identified in managed isolation since Sunday.

Hipkins indicated there would be a Government update on the vaccination programme after Cabinet on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Health issued the following release on Monday:

Update on Northland case, and 6 cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation

25 January 2021

The Ministry of Health can today confirm that the woman who recently travelled from overseas and completed their stay in managed isolation in the Pullman hotel in Auckland has subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

The woman and her only close household contact are isolating at their home south of Whangarei.

The Northland District Health Board Medical Officer of Health has undertaken an assessment of the case and their close household contact, and it has been determined that the pair are currently able to isolate at home. The situation will be monitored closely to ensure there is no public health risk.   

Following a further interview with the woman, contact tracing has now found the woman has 15 close contacts. All 15 close contacts have been contacted by health officials, are self-isolating and have been tested.  

Of the 15 close contacts, so far we know that two have returned negative test results.  

Whole genome sequencing results for the woman have confirmed that she has contracted the South African variant, B.1.3.5.1.  

We continue to monitor advice from the World Health Organization on this variant. Currently there’s limited epidemiological data available on the B.1.3.5.1 variant, making it harder to study. The preliminary concern of this variant is that the mutation affects the body’s immune response to it and its transmissibility.  

New forms, or variants, of the virus have become increasingly common around the world – and we have expected to see them here in New Zealand.

Link to managed isolation

Whole genome sequencing has linked the case to another guest who was in the managed isolation facility. Their genome sequencing results are identical, leading us to suspect a managed isolation facility transmission.

Early information suggests the transmission occurred between 9 January and 13 January.  

Routine testing picked up COVID-19 in the other guest, and this person was transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility on 13 January.They have been classified as recovered and were due to be released but will be asked to stay on for now.  

As expected, there have been other cases in the same MIF and we are investigating any possible links between cases to exclude transmission within the MIF.

COVID Tracer app notifications and Bluetooth

COVID Tracer app notifications were issued last night to more than 160 people who visited locations of interest and used the COVID Tracer App.

People who were in the vicinity of the person and have enabled Bluetooth functionality on their app have started to receive notifications. Pleasingly 200,000 people enabled Bluetooth on the app yesterday.

A list of 30 locations of interest is available on the Ministry’s website here.

Public Health clinical staff made calls to the businesses at the locations of interest last night to provide public health advice. Additional followup is happening today.

We do need to all remember it’s important to use the COVID Tracer app to scan QR codes and turn on Bluetooth functionality.

Community testing stations

Northland and Auckland health officials have worked to provide additional testing sites in the area that the woman went to after leaving managed isolation.

There is high demand at community testing centres in Northland currently. It is important that anyone who went to a location of interest around the same time of the case, or may be showing symptoms, is prioritised to get a test.

Northland community testing is available now at: Mangawhai Domain, today until Wednesday; the Ngati Hine Health Trust in Kawakawa; the Turner Centre in KeriKeri today and tomorrow; the Visitor Centre at Ruakaka today and tomorrow until 4pm; and Winger Crescent in Kamo, Whangarei. Testing is also available at Daragaville, Rawene and Kaitaia Hospital

For further information about hours and other community testing sites in the area please go to https://www.healthpoint.co.nz/covid-19/

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has a full list of community testing centres throughout the region here https://www.arphs.health.nz/public-health-topics/covid-19/where-to-get-tested/

For anyone that has not been to a location of interest but is concerned, contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or call your GP to see if you need to have a test. Please 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.

6 cases in managed isolation today

There are 6 cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation to report in New Zealand since our last media statement yesterday. Please see table below.

Twenty previously reported cases have now recovered. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 64.  Our total number of confirmed cases is 1,932.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,489,913.

On Sunday, 2,678 tests were processed. The seven-day rolling average up to yesterday is 3,451 tests processed.

New border case details

Arrival date From Via Positive test day/reason Managed isolation/quarantine location
13 Jan To be determined Australia Around day 11/routine testing Auckland
23 Jan India United Arab Emirates and Malaysia Day 0/routine testing Auckland
23 Jan Laos Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia Around day 0/routine testing Auckland
23 Jan India United Arab Emirates and Malaysia Around day 0/routine testing Auckland
23 Jan Qatar Australia Around day 0/routine testing Auckland
23 Jan Qatar Australia Around day 0/routine testing Auckland

NZ COVID Tracer

NZ COVID Tracer now has 2,475,624 registered users.

In the past 24 hours to 1pm today, 802,973 scans have been recorded. This is a notable increase and we thank everyone that is scanning and enabling Bluetooth on their phone.

Poster scans have reached a total of 159,056,758 and users have created 6,476,767 manual diary entries.

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.

41 Comments

Seems like a good exercise to get people using the Covid app & enabling bluetooth. Nothing like abit of scare tactics. It would be odd if no-one else in the community has caught it off her, after all it's the highly contagious South African strain.

Yeah it would be surprising although didn't sound like she had bad symptoms so may not have been spraying it around much.
Also I guess summer helps.

22
up

Honestly if I had our country's luck when it came to this I'd have won Lotto about sixteen times by now.

Without buying a ticket

10
up

"won Lotto about sixteen times by now": you may even be able to buy a house with that!

Yes it's a cunning plan thought up by the powers in be..

Pretty sure most of the cabinet ministers are actually lizard people though. Jacinda - sounds like a lizard name.

One of my in laws actually believes this smack.

With the original strains, it was found that ~69% of cases did not cause any further infections, with 19% of infected leading to 80% of the new cases. Not sure how much this changes with the new strains, but lets keep out fingers crossed this is one of the 69%.

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable...

You should read China's covid news. Real scare tactics, true authoritarianism style.

If the public doesn't start screaming at the government about getting everyone working at MIQ vaccinated yesterday after this then nothing will.

Is there ANY evidence these "vaccines" stop the contraction of Covid-19 ??
Is there ANY evidence these "vaccines" stop the spread of Covid-19 ??

I'm not sure these vaccines meet the definition of a vaccine TBH. Please correct me if I'm wrong - I want to be wrong.

At best they maybe.. shorten the window someone is contagious and perhaps lessen symptoms of infected persons [if taken before infected]? Is that correct?

YES PLENTY - there is plenty of evidence that it prevents a person contracting the virus - the same type of evidence that proves measles mumps and rubella can be vaccinated against -- note in all the recent outbreaks its only anti vaccers children who have contracted measles
https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)-vaccines?adgroupsurvey={adgroupsurvey}&gclid=Cj0KCQiA0rSABhDlARIsAJtjfCclpQmqoQWlTbXxlWiNgVg6Bkqd1GQSLTAtTEZXGCmWH5aiXO-GUnAaAm35EALw_wcB
will give you a good overview - and if you want to find the other papers you can --

WE dont know if a person could still carry infection on clothes etc -- but then thats been a moot point since the beginning - similar to the chinese trying to say it all came in on frozen food -- something they keep trying to build a case about - despite no other evidence supporting it -

Thanks but couldn't find any real answers, I'll keep looking on the site. All the page showed was [Dencember 12th]:

"There are three COVID-19 vaccines for which certain national regulatory authorities have authorized the use. None have yet received WHO EUL/PQ authorization but we expect an assessment on the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December"

"The vaccines must be proven safe and effective in large (phase III) clinical trials. Some large clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidates have reported encouraging preliminary results,"

"WHO is cautiously optimistic that safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 will be successfully developed"

"It’s too early to know if COVID-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection. Additional research is needed to answer this question."

"Most scientists anticipate that, like most other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines will not be 100% effective."

At the least, the very least surely, regardless of the question of subsequent transmission, are not the those working in MIQ deserving of protection by being vaccinated? The way it stands based on previous post/ comment here, they are more or less being treated as carrier guinea pigs purely so that any symptoms might show up early. Well this case here then shoots holes right through that reasoning and objective.

@Foxglove

Can you expand on what you mean? I'm not sure what you mean: "..so that symptoms show up early" and "..shoots holes right through that reasoning and objective". In regards to what? I'm genuinely interested to hear your thinking.

"The way it stands they are more or less being treated as carrier guinea pigs purely so that symptoms show up early. Well this case here then shoots holes right through that reasoning and objective."

Well a few days back Realterms or someone contradicted my submission that as the relative staff were being randomly tested it did not then require that they first evidence symptoms in order to be tested and therefore vaccination would not affect the status quo. So the counter point was that it was desirable that symptoms show up, and as early as possible, and therefore those that are vaccinated might unwittingly become carriers as it is not yet known if the vaccine reduces, let alone prevents transmission. Hope that clarifies and I do apologise for being untidy, I should have expanded on the source of my comment and I have gone to edit accordingly.

Thanks, good points.

Still don't get why they would put new people in a hotel with people near the end of isolation. Fill the hotel up then move on to the next one. People should stay the 14 days from the time the hotel is full. No one should be introduced from overseas during that 14 days, and if they are then everyone's 14 days should start again.
Man we have been lucky if they are expecting it to work with new people lumped in with people about to leave!

That would make too much sense.

Some people are talking about increasing the quarantine period to 28 days. However that's not the problem, you could quarantine for 2 years and if on your last day a new arrival coughed Covid into your face it was all for nothing. Aussies make those in quarantine stay in their rooms. May be time for MOH to grow a pair.

i love the way that its always such GOOD news that our system has failed again -- but at least we know it ! Accident waiting to happen -- but yet again no steps to fix it until after the fact - when will they understand and stop wasting this time and get it right -- lets immunise all MI staff and their families - and why no immunise all new arrivals on day one ? very little downside to that and some potential upsides -- and not that expensive - could be vaccinated at the same time as day one testing occurs

I don't think they could (or should) force immunisation. It could be optional I guess. But they need to have some vaccines first...

Just remember it’s still not proven being vaccinated stops you spreading Covid... in some ways I guess not being vaccinated means if you catch it your more likely to show symptoms then not

Surely not having covid stops you spreading covid?

Big sigh of exasperation!!! A vaccine will stop you contracting the disease with up to 95% surety. If you are infected and asymptomatic it will boost your immune response leading to a faster recovery with less severe symptoms but you may still be infectious to an unvaccinated individual. If you want to forego vaccination so that your symptoms are more easily/likely to be detected - go ahead

Let’s get rational. The virus almost certainly escaped from a top notch highly secure specialised virus research centre.

And we think we can keep it locked in a motel!

How ridiculously optimistic does that seem??

Rational? You must be joking.

Well it has been fairly successful so far. There is always the chance of it leaking out, hence the next lines of defence such as contact tracing and app.
I give them huge credit for the current level of achievement, but I take some of that credit away when they do stupid things like mixing newly arrived people with those just about to leave isolation.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology was working with hundreds of Corona Virus strains. Though it's true the institute was 'top notch' and 'specialised' - they refused to work with their European counter-parts and it was KNOWN to have SOME shoddy containment practices.

The virus might be able to be locked in a motel/hotel - seems to be working. There are MANY similarities between how Covid-19 and HIV enter human cells.. If this escaped Covid-Strain is a Modified-Covid-Strain.. high school science tells me it could revert, over time to its more natural form.. for whatever that's worth lol.

I think the NZ media are doing a VERY POOR JOB about informing the public. I feel very ignorant regarding convid-19, I'd like some actual facts. After reading this comment section, I believe others feel the same way.

So somehow you've managed to reach a conclusion on the source of the virus before the WHO team? You are the MAN!! Better give WHO a bell and tell them not to waste their time in China - just suss Rastus out!! FFS

I know, but think of it like knowing the outcome of a Labour Working Group, but before its even happened, lol. Origin is somewhat irrelevant at the moment anyway.

Do you really expect a thorough, objective and honest investigation and report from WHO?
I certainly don't. China has got them round it's little finger.

Haven't thought much about it. It would be nice 'if China', whatever that means stopped being so face-savie - the world wasn't going to go full pitch-fork on China! Rather the CCP's stupid face-savie moves has ACTUALLY ripped the mask off.

Then their propaganda machine set in, which shot them in the foot with the WHO and pretty much every Western Country. Just loopy stuff. Covid-19 has gone around the whole world in large part because China wouldn't let go of secrecy and lies. I don't think it's been a wake up call to them either.. have they learned anything? It could lead to more fractionalization of the CCP.

Now, Orange-Man-Bad America was just as bad, if not worse. As for the WHO, maybe it's in need of a spine? I don't know, I really haven't given it much thought.

Conclusion: I hope the report gives dignity and is dignified.

they have not even begun investigating on site -- and lets be honest -- there is no way that the chinese will have left anything worthwhile finding -- it will all be picture perfect China is working hard on a misdirect to say it came into china from overseas on food packaging or similar and has had several attempts to reinforce that particular narrative -

it is also naive to think that it wont happen again -- its not the first outbreak of its kind that was initially covered up - and there is no sign that this time China learned any lessons and were any quicker to advise the world of a potential threat -

It would be good to see NZ start building appropriate specialist MI facilities - as we can see already that COVID is here for the long term -- and these will be needed for many years -- likewise Covid 19 wont be the last virus or epidemic of its kind -- so lets get ahead of the next few curves as well. Such a facility could also double as a centre for research - specialist hospital in the even of a national disaster - even a temporary shelter aka another serious earthquake - -

They need to close the border soon, whats it got to take, huge infection rates, many deaths. too late then, Its only a matter time, the virus will escape and may be almost impossible to control.

The following is so pseudo-science/anecdotal-statistics - it's burn after reading material:

I have considered; in my mind lol, due to the nature of NZ, social habits, geography, population per-square-mile, reverse-seasons, travel habbits, etc (even NZ's cannabis usage) .. coupled with targeted/moderate lock-downs - perhaps the virus has gotten out lots, but just died out?

Overcrowding of rental properties ("housing crisis"), again.. just in my mind, well.. such situations could be fertile ground that leads to mass outbreaks.

The virus can be stopped at the border quite readily - as long as the facilities are run as Managed Isolation Facilities not Multiple Intermingling Free-for-alls.
I would have thought it was pretty straightforward - separate early arrivals, midstayers and imminent leavers. Call them Teir 1,2 and 3. Tier 1 - 0-5 days, tier 2 -6-12 days, tier 3 12-14 days. No movement between tiers without a negative test. Mandatory testing weekly for caregivers, operational staff and security. The testing I'm talking about is not just a quick onceover with a heat gun or a questionnaire but a full-blown swab test.

Wow Australia closes its boarders to all New Zealand flights effective immediately with just ONE community case. Funny how we cannot manage to close our boarders.

Have they closed the boarders or are they just enforcing isolation now?

Quarantine free travel has ended, the borders aren't closed. So yes, they are enforcing isolation again

May as well be closed to most people. You will have to pay for the 2 weeks in isolation and pretty hopeless for short trips even if you can pay. No mucking about from the Australians, boom and its done.