Covid 19 coronavirus: Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins share latest on Wellington alert levels, Australia case details

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in the community or in MIQ to report, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

However, he cautioned “it’s still early days”.

There were around 7000 tests processed, over 1200 in Wellington region – four times more than usual.

Hipkins said the Government is still waiting for the genomic sequencing results from Australia after a Sydney man travelled to Wellington on the weekend while infected with Covid-19.

Hipkins said as soon as Australia gets the result they will be shared. He said there had been good, fast and efficient flow of information in both directions between Australia and New Zealand.

The man’s partner, who he travelled with, is asymptomatic and tested negative for the virus.

It comes amid fears the virus could be anywhere in New Zealand, due to the high transmission rate of the variant and fact many people moved in and out of Wellington over the weekend.

Wellington moved into alert level 2 at 6pm yesterday.

Hipkins said this was not a lockdown. The measures at alert level 2 were in place to allow contact tracing.

The number of close and casual contacts is expected to increase as that effort continued.

The results of that would help with Cabinet’s review of the situation on Sunday morning.

No further decisions unless there was a need to escalate would come until Sunday.

New Zealand would be looking at including other states in the quarantine-free travel pause if travel continued with NSW, Hipkins said.

The epidemiological link has been confirmed to the cluster in Sydney, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The variant would be known this afternoon.

Regardless of the variant the response remained the same.

The traveller had one vaccine dose about 10 days ago. His partner had one dose also.

Wastewater testing for Wellington was taking place and results would be known tomorrow.

“As learned from Auckland experience the people who need to be tested are the ones who should be tested,” Bloomfield said.

There were 420 contacts attached to the contact tracing database who were in locations of interest at the same time as the Sydney man, including 58 who were on the flight to New Zealand. All those on the flight were close contacts.

Bloomfield said colleagues in Sydney said the Sydney man was being “very helpful”. They had been using the app. About 60 people received a push notification yesterday as a result.

Jack Hacketts and 4 Kings Bar shared the same QR code. Both were considered to be locations of interest.

Bloomfield said it was good those bars had a QR code and good people using it. The more specific the QR code though the better.

Yesterday was also the fourth-biggest day for calls to Healthline, Hipkins said.

There was expected to be further high demand for testing with additional testing centres set up.

“High demand for testing is a good thing,” Hipkins said.

If people could not get a test today they were advised to stay home and isolate, Hipkins said.

There was a S70 notice in place, placing a legal requirement on people who were in those places to follow instructions.

Asked about the situation in Fiji, Bloomfield said they were in daily contact with counterparts there. It would be a challenge for them to re-eliminate Covid-19. The key effort would be a strong vaccination campaign in Fiji, which New Zealand was assisting with.

A total of 360 flights have departed from Wellington, both domestically and to Australia, since June 19 – the day the Covid-infected Sydney tourist arrived in the capital.

Sydney recorded 16 new cases of the virus yesterday, taking the total number linked to the Bondi cluster to 37.

The restrictions for the Wellington region – including Wairarapa and Kāpiti Coast – would stay in place until 11.59pm on Sunday.

The traveller works in a healthcare workplace near Bondi Junction – an area linked to the current outbreak in Sydney.

Professor Michael Plank, a modeller at Te Punaha Matatini and Canterbury University, said although it’s not confirmed, it is likely the person has the Delta strain which is around twice as infectious as the strain experienced last year.

“That makes this variant extremely dangerous because of the way cases can grow exponentially.”

Many people would’ve travelled from the capital to other parts of the country over the weekend, Plank said.

“So, it’s possible the virus could be anywhere in New Zealand.

“Everyone should be aware of this and act accordingly: stay home and get tested if sick, scan in with the app when out and about.”

After just three chains of transmission, there would be eight times as many cases on average, Plank said.

“Where the original variant might have caused 10 cases, the Delta variant could cause 80 cases in the same time which would quickly make it impossible to control without a lockdown.”

He said Wellington moving to alert level 2 was a “sensible precaution” that would reduce the risk of further transmission and limit potential superspreader events.

University of Otago professor of public health Michael Baker said the coming days would provide a clearer picture of the situation in Wellington as the test results of the case’s contacts are returned.

He said he would be surprised if the person didn’t have the more infectious Delta strain.

“It’s going to come down to how infectious they were at the time.”

He said the country was depending on luck and that the person wasn’t highly infectious while they were in Wellington.

“If they were, they would’ve infected lots of people.

“It can go either way. That’s why I think this particular situation is absolutely poised between being a close call or a disaster. We just have to wait and see.”

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