Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 24.
4.05pm: Northland community case went through managed isolation
The probable community case in Northland is a 56-year-old woman who has recently been through isolation at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland after returning from Europe, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins told media this afternoon. The woman’s PCR test and genome sequencing is under way, he said, noting it can take 24 hours for results.
The woman lives just south of Whangārei and is currently still there. Accompanied by her husband, she has recently been travelling in Mangawhai, across to Dargaville, and as far south as Helensville, said Bloomfield. The ministry has identified 30 locations the woman visited during the course of her travels, he said, but she didn’t go to any mass gatherings. “They were just spending time together,” Bloomfield said of the couple. He said the two were travelling because the woman had been overseas for four months.
The locations she visited include cafes and restaurants, retail outlets and tourist attractions. She was assiduous with checking in on the Covid Tracer app and the ministry is in the process of contacting these locations.
The list of locations, potential exposure dates and times will be published and push notifications will be sent to people who may have come in contact with her.
The government will post information about the 30 locations the woman visited only once business owners are notified of the coming public disclosure, Hipkins said, citing privacy concerns. Push notifications to the Covid-19 app would come out “in a drip fashion” as affected businesses are contacted, said Bloomfield.
“We will know a lot more in 24 hours than we know now. Genomic sequencing is a big part of the puzzle,” said Hipkins, in response to questions about what risk the woman’s movements pose to Northland.
The woman had travelled in Spain and the Netherlands late last year. While in the Netherlands she was with family members, all who were well at the time, but one or two have tested positive for Covid-19 since, said Ashley Bloomfield. She travelled to New Zealand from London via Singapore and arrived in Auckland on December 30.
The woman tested negative on January 2 and 10 in managed isolation, and was released on January 13, after which she went home. She lives with one other person, her husband, who has been tested and is isolating while waiting for results.
The woman started to have mild symptoms on January 15 which got progressively worse. She did not associate the mild symptoms with anything that could be Covid, Bloomfield said. Once they got worse she was tested at a community facility and the test result came back late last night. CCTV footage from the Pullman Hotel is being reviewed, said Hipkins, and those who have stayed there since January 1 – just over 600 people – have been contacted and asked to be tested.
The Ministry of Health doesn’t yet know origin or strain of infection but genome testing is under way to determine any connections to other cases in MIQ. Bloomfield said it was possible but unlikely the woman was infected before arriving in New Zealand and the virus had a long incubation period, indicating that transmission within the MIQ facility was more likely.
Bloomfield said the ministry was working on the assumption that this is one of the more transmissible variants of Covid-19. A number of the 13 or 14 people who have tested positive at the Pullman Hotel in recent weeks were infected by the faster-spreading UK or South African variants.
Hipkins said it is too early to speculate on possible response options including changes to alert levels. The new case won’t have an impact on the country’s vaccination schedule. “We will vaccinate as soon as we can get vaccines into the country,” he said.
4.00pm: Media conference on Northland case
Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield are about to address the media regarding the Northland case. Watch here:
1.15pm: Suspected community case in Northland
Health officials are investigating a suspected community case of Covid-19 in Northland, related to someone who was recently released from managed isolation and quarantine, the NZ Herald is reporting.
A spokesperson for Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the case was being treated as “probable”.
The last case of community transmission in New Zealand was on November 18.
Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will hold a press conference at the Beehive at 4pm today, and we’ll have more updates then.
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