Covid-19 update: The Ministry of Health reveals how an Auckland Airport employee became ill.

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After an Auckland Airport worker tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, the Ministry of Health says there is no risk.

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According to Hipkins, whole genome sequencing results obtained last night indicate that the Auckland Airport worker who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday is most likely related to a case that arrived on April 10.

The Ministry of Health has stated that the worker cleaned the plane on which the other case landed.

The ministry announced last night that 16 of the airport worker’s near contacts had been confirmed.

According to Dr. McElnay, the airport worker has been very helpful in identifying their movements over the past few days, and he has identified 25 similar contacts.

She claims that all seven tests so far have shown disappointing results.

The ministry previously said Auckland Airport was the person’s sole employer, and their role was non-public-facing.

The person works cleaning planes from places including red-zone countries as well as green-zone countries such as Australia, but the ministry has assessed that there is no risk.

McElnay says while there is a clear link between the airport worker and a case of Covid-19, they are still investigating how they became infected.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern previously stated that the worker was completely vaccinated, but that citizens could also contract Covid-19.

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When asked if it’s appropriate for the cleaner to have cleaned both red-zone and green-zone planes in a single shift, Hipkins says there are measures in place – typical in New Zealand and Australia – that prevent a worker from moving from a red-zone to a green zone in a single shift.

“Ultimately the risk of someone who is cleaning a plane, the chances of them passing on an infection is minimal if there is any at all. The chances of them picking up the virus of course is minimal as well.

“We will consider changing the system if the investigation highlights that there is a need to change the system.”

On today’s numbers, Dr McElnay says one case has been detected in MIQ facilities, arriving from Switzerland via Qatar on 19 April.

Also in this afternoon’s update, Hipkins confirms he has received his second Covid-19 vaccine.

He claims that 183,351 doses of the vaccine have been given to date, with 140,580 patients receiving a first dose and 42,771 receiving a second dose.

According to him, Auckland accounted for 41% of first-dose vaccines, with 19% of recipients being Mori or Pasifika.

Vaccinations have taken place at 142 different locations, with about 1200 vaccinators so far. About 2500 individuals have received vaccinator training.

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In New Zealand, 12,697 Mori have received a first injection of the vaccine, with 4343 receiving a second dose.

Hipkins says of the 16314 of the estimated 50,000 border workers’ family contacts have been vaccinated.”I would like that number to be higher … please do come forward and get those vaccinations.”

Group 2 vaccines are proceeding well, Hipkins says.

He says 104,596 first doses have been given to that group with 21,791 of those now fully vaccinated.

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Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

The Pfizer vaccine stockpile continues to grow, with another shipment of over 78,000 vaccines arriving in New Zealand, taking the total number of vaccines in the country to 685,620.

Hipkins says he is writing to all border worker scheme employers to advise them that all border workers must be screened.

“It is an essential employer responsibility … only employers are in the position to ensure that 100 percent of those who need to be tested are being tested.”

He says more information is being increasingly pushed out to encourage people to take up the vaccine.

Hipkins is also warning against a specific conspiracy theory.

“I am usually reluctant in this forum to talk about conspiracy theories, but I do want to address one of those today.

“I am aware that there are people handing out … printed material that undermines mask wearing on public transport. They’ve been particularly active in the Wellington region, they’ve been handing out mask exemption cards that are based on the official exemption cards that area avail to those who need them and they are handing out a pamphlet which whilst it looks professional has a lot of information in it that is factually wrong and potentially dangerous.”

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“My message to all those coming through the Wellington train station is that if you receive one of these pamphlets the Wellington train station has helpfully provided a variety of receptacles for them – they are called the rubbish bins.”

He says the group’s actions are highly disrespectful to the small number of people who genuinely need an exemption to wearing a mask such as a health or disability reason.

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