Covid 19 coronavirus: Three ‘new and active’ Covid cases in South Auckland

KEY POINTS
* Three community cases in South Auckland – a father, mother and daughter.
* No change to alert levels at this stage, with more information expected this evening.
* The mother works at LSG Sky Chefs in Mangere.
* The daughter goes to Papatoetoe High School which will be closed tomorrow and Tuesday.
* Two of the confirmed cases visited various locations in New Plymouth on February 6-7. It’s unclear if they were infectious when they visited.
* They also visited Pak N Save Manukau on Friday February 12 for about 15 minutes, sometime between 3.45pm and 5pm.

There are three community Covid-19 cases in South Auckland – a mother, father and daughter from Papatoetoe.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins fronted a press conference in the Beehive with Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield this afternoon.

The mother and daughter have returned tests which confirm they are”new and active”, Hipkins said.

New Zealand is still at alert level 1, he said.

There have been no changes made to NZ’s alert level settings at this stage, and more information will be available tonight.

He said there are still “gaps in our knowledge” around the cases. For example, the source of the contraction is a “piece of the puzzle” that is needed.

Decisions from this point onwards would be influenced by science, he said. The two things the Government will be looking for is evidence of the source and whether there is any evidence of spread.

Hipkins said genome sequencing in this instance will be very important.

The mother works at LSG Sky chefs, one of the world’s largest airline catering providers.

Officials are checking the workplace to see if anyone else is Covid-19 positive.

The father is a self-employed tradesman.

The daughter is a student at Papatoetoe High School, which will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

The family are in the process of being moved to Jet Park.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said the infected student is a Year 9 student who was only at school for one day last week, on Wednesday.

Couillault said the student stayed at home on Thursday and Friday after her mother became unwell. Last Monday was a holiday and he did not know why the student was not at school on Tuesday.

Five teachers and 28 students are considered close contacts of the infected student and all other students and staff at the school are “casual” contacts.

Couillault has notified all staff and parents by text and email this afternoon.

“Staff and students and their families are being asked to self-isolate for two days if they are casual contacts,” Couillault said.

A testing facility will be be provided at the school this week.

Couillault said the student did not attend “any assemblies or anything like that” on Wednesday.

“So in terms of identification, we have probably the smallest numbers of teachers and students that we could have for a Year 9 student,” he said.

Over Waitangi weekend, two of the cases went to New Plymouth, with February 6-8 the time frame.

Bloomfield said there was now a process of “an ongoing period of information gathering”.

There was also one case in managed isolation announced today.

One close contact of the three people in the community had tested negative, Hipkins said.

PM Jacinda Ardern is returning from Auckland to Wellington to be briefed.

“We are gathering all the facts as quickly as we can,” he said.

Hipkins said the message was to follow the previously announced health and safety measures.

“There is no such thing as no risk, so long as Covid-19 is out there,” he said.

He said there are still “a lot of questions” that still need to be answered.

Hipkins said there has been no scheduled Cabinet meeting this evening but that could be changed quickly if needed.

Bloomfield said the mother works at LSG in Mangere.

Her main duty was within the laundry area of Sky Chefs, but she is also involved with the packing of food.

She had a negative result on January 18.

Bloomfield said Air NZ has been briefed.

He said the family did all the right things. When they developed symptoms, they self-isolated.

The last time the mother was at work was on February 5.

Bloomfield said she was not infectious when she worked there but there is an investigation underway.

He said there was no risk she passed on the virus at work.

Bloomfield said the person in question was only in the Pak N Save for a brief period on Friday.

Foodstuffs said its Pak N Save store in Manukau will remain open, saying the Auckland Regional Public Health Service has advised the risk to staff and shoppers is reasonably low.

The public health service had advised it that a customer identified as a probably positive case of Covid-19 shopped at the Manukau store on February 12 for about 15 minutes between 3.45pm and 5pm

“While this is investigated further, we are taking the heightened precaution of requiring team members who were working in the store at the time to: isolate at home, take a test at the right time and return to work only when they have returned a negative result,” said a company spokesperson.

Staff from nearby stores will provide cover at the supermarket.

Bloomfield said the only contacts identified so far were household contacts.

The mother’s work does not involve her going directly onto any aircraft, Bloomfield said, but she was “interacting with the border”.

He said the family might have been “pre-symptomatic” when they were in New Plymouth and Taranaki at Waitangi weekend.

Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board chairwoman Lotu Fuli urged people to follow Ministry of Health advice.

She said the only Covid testing station in the local board was at the Ōtara shopping centre, but expected other testing stations would be set up soon.

“We are concerned and we hope that people will follow all the advice,” she said.

“We have been a bit slack in terms of scanning and everything else because we have been very complacent – the whole country, not just South Auckland.

“It is a concern because people live communally. In my own family we have three generations. So the potential for spread is very real.”

The Government was acting with caution, Bloomfioeld said, and more information will be available soon.

Bloomfield said people in New Plymouth don’t need to get tested unless they have symptoms.

He said Health Line has increased its work force.

On testing centres, a number in Auckland are having their hours extended.

Bloomfield said it’s important that the right people get testing and warned people not to get a test unless they need one.

If anyone is unwell, with symptoms, he called on them not to go out.

Hipkins said his advice to anyone who was organising an event was they should talk to public health officials.

Bloomfield said the Big Gay Out event has a lot of good Covid-19 prevention protocols.

Speaking to Q&A this morning, Hipkins gave no indication another community case had been discovered.

Last Sunday, media were also called to a previously unplanned press conference at the Ministry of Health offices in Wellington.

Director of public health Caroline McElnay revealed to media that there was a community case in Hamilton – someone who had stayed at the Pullman Hotel.

They had been in isolation and the Ministry of Health believed there was no risk to public health.

The person was subsequently moved to Jet Park in Auckland.

Today, Bloomfield will front media alongside Hipkins.

There were two new cases confirmed in managed isolation yesterday – both were detected on arrival.

There are 45 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand – all in quarantine.

The ministry also revealed yesterday that one person with Covid-19 died in North Shore Hospital.

The patient was transferred from a Managed Isolation Facility into hospital-level care for the treatment of a serious non-Covid-19 related condition on 5 February.

This person subsequently returned a positive result for Covid-19 following their admission. This positive result has been reported previously.

But the death was not been included in the official Covid related deaths, “at this stage”, the Ministry said, adding that more information would be provided on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Government is looking at administering the Covid-19 vaccine at people’s workplaces in the same way they are given the annual flu jab at work.

This, according to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, would help the Government reach a greater number of people quicker.

Speaking to Q&A this morning, Hipkins said the flu system where many people are given the jab at work, has worked well in the past.

“We are going to look to use those same networks again with the Covid vaccine,” he said.

“So if you already have people come to your workplace to do flu vaccines every year, if we can get them doing the Covid vaccine through the same mechanism, it will help us to reach people more quickly.”

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