Auckland mystery Covid-19 case ‘more like August outbreak’

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The latest Covid-19 community case has similarities to the outbreak in Auckland in August and there are likely to be other unknown cases, epidemiologist Michael Baker says.

University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker. Photo: University of Otago, Wellington / Luke Pilkinton-Ching​

Work is under way try to trace how a woman in her 20s, who lives and works in the CBD, caught the virus.

Some 100,000 Aucklanders who work in the CBD have been asked to work from home today.

Minister of Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins said early results from genomic testing suggest a link to the Defence Force cluster identified a week ago.

Baker said it would be good news if there was a relatively short chain of transmission but it would not change the fact that there must be other unknown cases.

“Even if it’s got the same genome sequencing as the Defence Force cluster that still doesn’t tell us it definitely came from there.

“There could be some other source, still, because the lineages are not unique, necessarily.

“It helps, but we still want to know what are those other cases out there.”

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Baker said there could be a number of cases.

“It’s much more like the Auckland August outbreak that we had that was quite hard to control. It took a few weeks.”

The University of Otago epidemiologist said some additional controls were needed, up to a potentially level 2-plus.

New Zealand’s approach to previous outbreaks has been effective, he said.

“The distinguishing thing about New Zealand is a rapid, vigorous response to outbreaks … and I think we’ll need something similar here, unfortunately.

“It does work. It’s tough – but I think now we should have instantly moved to something like a level 1.5. We don’t have it yet but I think we should introduce it.”

That could include limiting large public gatherings and making the use of masks on public transport mandatory.

He said in effect there had already been an alert level change.

“As soon as you’re saying to people work from home, wear masks and so on, effectively we are moving up the alert level system.”

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The message for people anywhere in the country is if they have flu or cold symptoms to ring Healthline or their doctor, get tested if they are advised to, and and stay at home.

Attending work while waiting for test results is against best or reasonable practice, especially if the job involves interacting with the public, he said.

Covid-19 symptoms include: a cough, a high temperature of at least 38C, shortness of breath, sore throat, sneezing and runny nose, loss of smell or taste. If you have one or more of these call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 08003585453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP.

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