Image: File
Image: File

SocietyMarch 4, 2020

Second case of Covid-19 confirmed in NZ: here’s what we know so far

Image: File
Image: File

The woman, in her 30s, had returned to Auckland from northern Italy over a week ago.

What’s the latest?

The Ministry of Health announced just before noon today that a second case of Covid-19 had been confirmed, with testing last night coming in positive. The affected woman, who is in her 30s, and her family were notified and “contact tracing” began. The woman does not require hospital care and is in isolation in her home

What about those around her?

Her husband has displayed symptoms and is being tested. He had been with her in Italy.

Does this mean a wider outbreak is imminent?

The ministry says: “With continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low. According to the ministry there are 31 tests currently under way.”

Where did the woman arrive from?

She arrived on NZ0283 from Singapore to Auckland on February 25, and has subsequently travelled on two domestic flights, both on March 2: NZ5103 Auckland to Palmerston North and NZ8114 Palmerston North to Auckland. The Ministry says: “In addition to proactive tracing of close contacts on this flight by public health staff, contact will be made with everyone on the flight to provide relevant information.

That’s eight days. Hasn’t she been in contact with lots of people?

At a press briefing, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said that he did not have all the details but: “She has not been feeling well – and has been largely at home because has been feeling unwell.”

Was she displaying any signs of being affected when she returned?

No. She developed symptoms once she arrived in New Zealand, said Bloomfield. The evidence from China suggests that those without symptoms are not those who spread the virus.

What is “close contact”?

Bloomfield explained that it means “within a metre, for more than 15 minutes”. As far as the flights are concerned, close contact means those in the same row of seats, the two rows in front and the two rows behind.

Those outside those definition – “casual contacts” – they are considered low risk, but encouraged to contact Healthline (0800 358 5453).

Anyone else who might have come into contact?

Two medical centres where the woman sought advice and treatment are being contacted “to determine if there is any risk to staff or other people who may have been at the centre at that time”. There are also two schools that have been notified by officials, as a family member attends each. These are Westlake Boys and Westlake Girls High Schools. The Ministry advises: “The family members who attend these schools are not symptomatic and are now at home in isolation. They did not travel to Italy, are both well and are being monitored.”

When will we know more about her husband?

The test results are likely to be known, and relayed by the ministry, later today.

What’s up in northern Italy?

There have been more than 1,500 cases in the northern Lombardy region, with 10 towns in lockdown. Across Italy 79 people have died from Covid-19, all of whom were aged between 63 and 95 and had underlying serious illnesses.

People returning to New Zealand from the area were earlier this week asked to self-isolate, as are those travelling from South Korea.

Is it the same with Iran?

To be clear, Mainland China and Iran are “category 1a” territories, with travel restrictions in place.

South Korea and Northern Italy are “category 1b”, for which the advice is: “We request all people travelling to New Zealand undertake 14 days self-isolation and register with Healthline (0800 358 5453).”

More here.

There have been reports of some people seeking to be tested but being refused. What’s going on?

Not everyone who has a cold can be tested – unless you’re considered plausibly to have come into contact with someone with Covid-19, or your symptoms indicate you might have contracted the virus, you’re unlikely to be swabbed.

Bloomfield explained it like this: “We’ve done over 160 tests and only two are positive. So it seems to me that’s about right … While we are guided by the case definition, contrary to some commentary it is not rigid. It is applied with the clinical judgment of the clinician and in discussion with an infectious diseases specialist. If there is any doubt, and we saw this in the first case, the clinician will test.”

What about suggestions the response is an overreaction?

Here’s what Bloomfield said that question: “I don’t think so at all. I think we’ve been very alert, and very responsive and flexible in our response, right from the start. There are no prizes for under-doing our response here. And you can see that other countries around the world are also ramping up very significant responses to this threat.”

Confirmed infections around the world now number more than 90,000, with the vast majority in China. More than 3,000 have died.

I’m still worried. What should I do?

Wash your hands. And read this.

What do I tell my kids?


Keep going!