Earliest case of Covid-19 in New Zealand identified

By Jessica Tyson

The Ministry of Health has identified the earliest case, so far, of Covid-19 in New Zealand after six historical cases in Waikato were identified today.

This infection occurred in late February after a family in Waikato was exposed to another family member who had visited from Italy.

At the time of the visit, a man living at the household became ill with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 and the wider household then also became ill.

“At the time, they did not meet the case definition for testing for people with defined symptoms who had travelled from or transited through China. Italy had not at that point been identified as a country of concern. This meant the New Zealand household was not tested at the time,” the ministry said in a statement.

Just recently the man at the household developed a sore throat and sought testing.

“The weak positive result, combined with serology test results and case history, is consistent with an old infection.”

Only the man will be counted as a confirmed case as he has returned a weak positive result on the PCR test. The other family members will be recorded as probable cases, the ministry says.

“This would mean that the infected family member from Italy is effectively now the first case we are aware of in New Zealand, as the person reported having symptoms on arrival on February 21, a week before our first reported case on February 28," the ministry says. 

Consequently, the other household cases would represent the first locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, given the onset of symptoms from 29 February for the confirmed case.

New community cases today

There are three new community cases today connected to the Auckland August community cluster.

They are part of a “family group” linked to a previously reported Christchurch to Auckland chartered flight and have been self-isolating over the past three days.

There are 37 people isolating in the Auckland quarantine hotel, including 17 who have tested positive and their household contacts.

Three people are in hospital with Covid-19 – one each at Auckland City, Middlemore and North Shore hospitals.

Since August 11, 4,014 close contacts of cases have been identified. Of these 4,006 have been contacted and are self-isolating or have completed self-isolation.

There are three previous reported cases recovered. The number of active cases is 62 made up of 28 are imported cases and 34 community cases. There are 1,468 confirmed cases in total.