Bloomfield’s Covid-19: Grand Millennium events are closely related

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According to Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, genome findings indicate that the infection of three Grand Millennium employees who tested positive for Covid-19 is very closely linked.

According to MIQ head Brigadier Jim Bliss, an investigation of the facility revealed no major findings or grounds for concern.

It was revealed last night that a third worker at Auckland’s Grand Millennium Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facility had tested positive for Covid-19.

They are close friends with the security guard who was infected with the virus last week, and both are genetically related to Case A, a facility cleaner.

During a press conference at 1 p.m., Dr. Bloomfield stated that full genomic sequencing reveals a very similar correlation between Cases A and B. This demonstrates a strong and precise epidemiological relation between the three individuals.

Dr Bloomfield says Case A and B are genomically identical, which suggests very direct transmission.

“We don’t have the direct epidemiological connection between Cases A and B yet, they both worked at the Grand Millennium we know and we’re just looking at their shift pattern … to find that connection.”

The latest case – Case C – and their partner are at the Auckland quarantine facility and the partner has returned a negative test, Dr Bloomfield says.

Case C has been in self-isolation during the infectious period, he says. The testing history of Case B is still being investigated, he says. The “period of interest” has been extended.

Dr Bloomfield this morning told Morning Report that he was awaiting information on the vaccination status of the latest case.

This afternoon he confirmed Cases C and B had not yet received a vaccine but there was no suggestion they were vaccine hesitant.

An opportunity for vaccination had been offered to Case C, Bloomfield says, but they had been unable to attend.

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He says vaccination status is private to individuals, but in this case the individuals were told their status would be shared.

Case C has been wanted to be vaccinated but it may have been complicated by being in isolation, Bloomfield says.

Case B had not been tested through March, Bloomfield says. Their first test was 8 April as part of routine testing, and officials are still investigating when Case B was last tested.

“The testing history of Case B is being further investigated.”

Bloomfield says 10 out of 11 plus contacts of Case B have now returned a negative Covid-19 test. The 11th is Case C.

Five out of eight close contacts have returned negative results and the remaining three are awaiting their tests, and there are nine casual plus contacts – seven have returned negative tests and the other two are not due yet.

Grand Millennium audit

Bliss confirms the audit of the Grand Millennium had found nothing of note. He says health and safety of returnees and staff remains a vital priority.

“We are managing a large operation with a diverse workforce as well as conducting an investigation.”

Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) head Brigadier Jim Bliss getting his second Covid-19 vaccine.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) head Brigadier Jim Bliss Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Health

The Grand Millennium – New Zealand’s largest MIQ facility – has about 170 staff and 445 rooms, Bliss says, with 347 returnees now in the facility.

“Our workers have made personal sacrifices to keep our community safe.”

Bliss says they are now focusing on the cause of the infection.

The technical advisory group will meet tomorrow to make any recommendations for the facility outside of the audit, he says.

On how the workers could have caught the virus from each other, Brigadier Bliss says the investigation is ongoing CCTV footage was being checked, who was on location and staff rostering.

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“We can’t determine if there’s been a staff mistake.”

Locations of interest

The Ministry of Health has announced the addition of two additional points of concern related to the Grand Millennium outbreak.

Funtech on Queen Street between 5.20pm and 6.25pm on March 29th, and nearby Barber in Mount Roskill South between 2pm and 4pm on April 7th.

Baknervala Dairy, White Swan Mobile, Terminus Dairy, and Bake and Beans, all in the Mount Roskill district, were previously listed as places of interest by the ministry.

Bloomfield claims that the date of interest and certain areas of interest have been pushed back to March 29.

Vaccines

Bloomfield says they remain confident on the progress of the vaccine rollout and over 110,000 doses have now been administered around New Zealand.

Bloomfield says he had expected some workers would be slower to be vaccinated. He says there will be a whole range of reasons why that is the case.

Bloomfield says the border workforce is changing all the time – staff being rotated in and out – so the total number shifts. As a result, he cannot say how many on the frontline still have not been vaccinated.

Bloomfield says he is satisfied everybody at the border has had the offer and opportunity to be vaccinated.

Bloomfield says some people have turned down the vaccine and yet are still working on the frontline. He says the process to shift them into another role is under way.

The end date for border workers refusing the vaccinate would be the end of April, he says.

He says workers who have refused the vaccine are at the front of the queue to have a conversation with their employers, but will not have been required to be redeployed yet.

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He does not have numbers on how many have refused, he says.

“It’s not a straightforward process.”

Bliss says from 1 April, every person joining the border workforce has been required to have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

There will be an update on the vaccination progress on Wednesday.

New cases at the border

Dr. Bloomfield reports that seven new cases have been registered in MIQ in the last 24 hours, taking the seven-day rolling total of new cases at the border to nine.

One new historical case has emerged.

Another 17 recoveries increase the total number of open cases to 100, for a total of 2227 confirmed cases.

Three of them were former contacts’ contacts.

There are no recent incidents in the population.

A provisional travel ban from India, imposed in response to an increase in Covid-19 cases registered at the New Zealand border, went into effect at 4 p.m. yesterday and will remain in effect until April 28.

Yesterday, three new cases of Covid-19 in controlled isolation were recorded, two of which were from India.

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