Covid-19 update: Wellington has been elevated to alert level 2, and additional information about the Sydney case has been published.

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The Wellington region will be placed on alert level 2 at 6 p.m. tonight and will remain so until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

The announcement comes after a person who travelled from Sydney to Wellington tested positive for the virus upon their return.

The person was in Wellington from 19 June until 21 June.

In today’s 1pm press conference, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says that includes the Wairarapa and the Kāpiti Coast.

The rest of New Zealand will remain at alert level 1.

“We just held a special meeting and out of an abundance of caution the Wellington region will move to alert level 2 from 6pm tonight and that will run through at this point until 11.59pm on Sunday,” Hipkins says.

Alert level 2 means:

  • Limits on gathering size to fewer than 100 people, including tangi, church services, weddings and so on
  • Physical distancing in public places of 2m, and at least 1m in most other places including workplaces
  • Face masks remains mandatory on all public transport, and encourages while waiting for public transport and in rideshare services and taxis as well
  • Businesses can open but must follow public health rules including the 100 person cap on venues
  • Hospitality locations must apply the three S rules
  • As with all levels, people with symptoms should call Healthline or their doctor to seek advice on getting a test

Travel is not restricted under alert level 2 but anyone who has been in the Wellington region over the weekend should keep alert level 2 behaviours if they go elsewhere.

“I want to reiterate that these are precautionary measures … first and foremost we want to ensure that New Zealanders are not exposed to Covid-19.”

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Photo: Graphic by Vinay Ranchhod

On the person in question, Hipkins says they were likely to have been infected before they travelled to New Zealand.

“I do want to reassure New Zealanders that we’ve always had plans in place for situations like this and that is what we are working through now. Our contact tracers have been working at pace and they have been since we were first notified of this case last night.”

He says the case, who has since returned to Sydney was spoken to last night and again early this morning. Their four close contacts were notified last night, and two have returned negative results.

He also says the decision to pause travel with New South wales was made before New Zealand officials were notified of the case. When the case left Sydney there were just four cases there, though that number has since grown significantly.

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Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says authorities learnt this morning that the new case works in a healthcare setting close to the Bondi junction that is the centre of the current outbreak in Sydney. He says one of the other cases that is part of the current outbreak had been seen there.

The individual received the first dose of a vaccination around 10 weeks earlier and extensively utilised the Covid-19 Tracer app while visiting New Zealand.

“Our hope is that many people who visited those venues that are locations of interest have also been using the app … however that is complementary to the information that we have put out on our website.”

He claims that the government is sure that it has identified all of the points of interest, but that more precise information regarding particular places at Wellington Airport would be supplied when CCTV is analysed.

Two of the individual’s four connections are in Palmerston North, while the other two are in Tauranga.

Those in Tauranga had a much more fleeting interaction with the case. All four are isolating.Some 58 passengers who came into New Zealand from Sydney early on Saturday morning are considered close contacts and will have been contacted, Bloomfield says. They would all have been notified last night and be ringing Healthline directly.

Bloomfield says he encourages Wellingtonians and others who have been in Wellington over the weekend to check the places in the locations of interest. Some people will be required to isolate for the full 14 days.

The case stayed at Rydges Hotel in Featherston Street and spent the weekend in tourist and other places around Wellington and dining in the central city. Some of those who were on the return flight to Sydney have since returned to New Zealand and are also being contacted.

The person returned to Sydney on Monday at 10.13am.

Testing sites:

  • Community testing station at 200 Taranaki Street is having extra people brought on board
  • Testing site in the Hutt Valley
  • From the afternoon there will be an additional testing site at the ASB centre in Kilbirnie
  • People should call healthline for advice about where to get tested if they need one
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Sewage testing has been taken at the Moa Point site yesterday and results should be available tomorrow.

Bloomfield says there are four new cases in managed isolation today.

About 5900 tests were processed yesterday, and about 470,000 scans with the app. “We want and need that number to increase,” Bloomfield says.

Moving to alert level 2

Hipkins claims that government MPs and ministers will not attend big gatherings of more than 100 individuals anywhere in the country.

He claims that the majority of them had been in Wellington during this time.

Parliament will continue to meet today, although under alert level 2.

According to Hipkins, upgrading to alert level 2 is a very cautious approach, and authorities will rely largely on contact tracing technologies to detect any possible instances.

“If we start seeing additional cases coming up that we haven’t identified through our contact tracing that’s the sort of environment in which we would reconsider if any further changes might be required.”

He says the information about locations of interest, put out just before 9am, was put out as soon as it was available.

He says he does not think it would be fair to categorise the reaction as sluggish.

More details on Sydney Covid-19 case

Bloomfield says the place where this person works and there has subsequently been a case linked to had not been identified as a location of interest at the point in time when they travelled to New Zealand.

He says there’s no information to suggest they breached the rules of the bubble.

Hipkins says it was the emergence of cases yesterday that did not have a clear link to the other cases that prompted him to pause travel with NSW.

He says measures have been put in place around the Parliament building for alert level 2.

He says cases will pop up from time to time either in Australia or New Zealand. “That’s the nature of Covid-19.”

Bloomfield says he does not have more detail about the person’s visit to a chemist’s at this point in time, but the person became aware of symptom onset – quite clearly in their mind – about 3am on Monday.

He says they don’t know yet about how the person travelled around the city.

He also doesn’t know how many people were in the pub on Saturday night, when the Super Rugby final was on, but he expects it may have been quite full.

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The advice for people who are close contacts of close contacts is the same as for all Wellingtonians – to abide by the alert level 2 restrictions.

Vawccine rollout

Hipkins says the vaccine rollout is going as fast as possible. It took 48 days to reach 100,000 doses, 14 days to reach 200,000, then 28 to reach 500, and 33 days to hit a million doses.

“We are expecting to get some bigger deliveries of the vaccine in July which we have canvassed before.”

Vaccination data:

  • 54829 people in group 1 have had their first dose
  • over 362,000 in group 2,
  • 377,000 in group 3,
  • about 43,500 have been vaccinated out of cycle in group 4.

There will be some unevenness in how those groups are being counted, Hipkins says.

He says the workforce for scaling up vaccinations in Wellington is the same as for scaling up testing, so they are limited, and at this point they will not be pulling staff from other regions

Travel bubble

Hipkins says they started having conversations about pausing the bubble yesterday afternoon and made the decision about 5pm. Bloomfield alerted Hipkins to “information about a case” about 8.30pm via text message.

No decisions have been made about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s planned trip to Australia at this point.

Hipkins says pre-departure testing may be brought in for NSW when travel starts between the state and New Zealand but the decision has not been made yet.

He says the Cabinet has not yet reviewed the alert levels in respect of new variants.

People who have been at these locations at the relevant time should immediately isolate at their home or accommodation and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing.

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