No new community cases, four in managed isolation – Bloomfield

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No new cases of Covid-19 have been found in the community today, while four have been found in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says.

Watch the update here:

Dr Bloomfield says all four new imported cases were identified within a day or so of their arrival.

No new cases is good news, he says, but based on last week’s exposure events, which are listed on the ministry’s website, any potential positive cases could be expected to start being detected from today onwards.

“We are early on in this journey and not yet out of the woods.”

Whole genome sequencing for Case O – the mother in the third family in the February cluster – shows a linkage to the rest of her family and the rest of the cluster, he says.

This is another reassuring sign we are not dealing with a separate infection.

Yesterday the Ministry of Health announced there were no new cases of community transmission and one new case in managed isolation.

There are now 15 Covid-19 cases in four families connected to the Auckland February cluster in Papatoetoe.

Contact tracing

He says that of the 1855 Papatoetoe High School contacts, all bar four have had at least one test result returned. The four have isolation plans in place.

The ministry is still following up with 50 contacts about a second test, he says.

At Mānukau Institute of Technology, 21 close contacts of case M are all isolating and being tested. All tests have so far come back negative.

There are 158 possible casual-plus contacts from people who were at CityFitness and Hunters Plaza. They are isolating until the tests come back negative.

The 11 KFC Botany Downs close-plus contacts have returned negative test results and one is still being followed up on, Dr Bloomfield says.

All 34 Kmart Botany staff members identified as close plus contacts have tested negative.

Ministry of Health said 1855 people reported being at the store at the times of interest and were asked to isolate for 14 days and be tested twice during this time. So far, 1805 have returned negative test results.

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Testing and communications

He says community providers are continuing to visit homes of isolating families – to make sure they have everything they need to remain isolated.

After technical problems and understaffing led to wait times on Healthline of up to nearly eight hours last Tuesday, average wait time is now 26 minutes.

The call centre has four times the usual staff on at the moment, Dr Bloomfield says.

He says yesterday there were 8880 Covid-19 tests processed, reflecting the large number of swabs done on Sunday.

Some 7000 swabs were taken in Auckland yesterday with 3000 in community testing centres and the rest in GP and urgent care centres.

More than 70,000 tests have been carried out in Auckland since 14 February.

“We do expect high numbers again today and tomorrow,” Dr Bloomfield says.

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Photo: RNZ/Vinay Ranchhod

Dr Bloomfield thanked everyone who has undergone a test.

“It’s important that the right people do come forward for testing,” he says.

Dr Bloomfield reminds people that muscle aches were a common symptom for this particular strain – the B117 variant.

Travel

He also reminded people that travel in and out of Auckland is prohibited under alert level 3.

More than 1300 personal exemptions have been sought from the Ministry of Health, and 857 have been processed so far.

To date there have been 1637 people who have been permitted to travel, Dr Bloomfield says.

Dr Bloomfield says people are unlikely to get exemptions to transit through Auckland to go on holiday, whether north or south.

“The most important thing Aucklanders can do is stay at home as much as possible.”

There are some exemptions to this, such as moving house, Dr Bloomfield says, but there is an exemptions process for this.

Dr Bloomfield says almost no exemptions are being granted for weddings. A number of exemptions have been granted for funerals and tangihanga – but only for immediate family members or equivalent.

“I understand that will be distressing for grieving family members … thank you for your understanding.”

Following the rules

Dr Bloomfield says the government cannot police everyone’s behaviour.

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“We need everyone to do their bit,” he says. “Our efforts is unite against Covid, not let the virus divide you.”

“I would be concerned about a punitive or enforcement-type approach deterring people from coming forward or volunteering information.”

Dr Bloomfield says he believes the messaging has been clear. He says it is not uncommon for school students to have not passed on information to parents.

This afternoon police said they busted a group of people attending a church service at a house in Māngere East on Sunday, the day the alert level changes came into force.

Earlier today, Dr Bloomfield said those who breached self-isolation protocols and sparked the latest Auckland lockdown won’t be prosecuted by police.

It follows a call yesterday from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for New Zealanders to confront family and colleagues who do not follow the rules.

This is an official government Covid-19 announcement:

On 28 February, the Auckland region moved to Covid-19 Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. This is for a period of seven days. Further community cases of Covid-19 have been identified in the Auckland Region. If you are in Auckland, stay home where possible, and follow Alert Level 3 guidelines. This will stop the transmission of Covid-19 and save lives. For more information on the alert levels go to covid19.govt.nz.

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As New Zealand’s Lifeline Utility radio broadcaster, RNZ is required to maintain essential public information channels and news during times of national emergency and we are committed to supporting all New Zealanders. We are also committed to looking after the health and well-being of our staff.

RNZ will continue to provide essential information services – broadcasting and publishing critical public service announcements on air, on our website and via social media channels. Comprehensive news will be available on air and via our website and digital services.

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Kia Kaha – Stay Strong

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