Northland case 56-year-old woman; 'Too early to speculate on response options ' - Covid Minister Chris Hipkins

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

A 56-year-old woman is the person in Northland who has tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation in Auckland, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have told media Sunday afternoon. 

The woman was recently in managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland where she twice tested negative for Covid-19 after returning from Europe, said Minister Hipkins.

He said the origin or strain of the infection is not currently known.

'Too early to speculate on response options'

"It's important not to speculate on that until we have that information. It's also too early to speculate on what our possible response options may be, including things like alert levels. We don't have the relevant information we need to make any further decisions on that.

"As soon as we do, of course, we will keep people informed." 

Hipkins said it could take 24 hours for further test results, such as genome sequencing, to come back, at which time a further update would be provided.

In the meantime, the minister asked people to follow the key public health messages - get a test if you are feeling unwell or showing symptoms, isolate until you get the results back, do not go to work if unwell, use the Covid tracer app to scan everywhere you go, turn on Bluetooth, and wash your hands.

Hipkins said he wanted to make clear that the woman had been "scrupulous" in keeping good records that would assist contact tracers.

"This woman concerned has been scrupulous in keeping a good record of her movements, scanning the QR codes everywhere she has gone. That has laid a very good foundation for our contact tracing team," he said.

Europe Travel

Dr Ashley Bloomfield provided further details on the case.

He indicated that the woman had travelled in Spain and the Netherlands late last year.  While in the Netherlands she was with family members, all of which were well at the time, but subsequently one or two of the family members have tested positive for Covid-19, he said.

The person travelled to NZ from London via Singapore and arrived in NZ on 30 December.  She tested negative on 2 and 10 January and did not have symptoms while in managed isolation in Auckland.

Return to Northland

The woman returned home to Northland on 13 January. Dr Bloomfield said she lives with one other person who has not been symptomatic but has been tested and is also isolating while awaiting results.

The woman started to develop very mild symptoms on about 15 January and these got progressively worse over the period before she was tested, he said. Her initial symptoms were some muscle aches.

The woman has been self-isolating since getting a test at a community facility. 

"The result came back late last evening [Saturday] as positive for Covid-19," Dr Bloomfield said.

He said it appeared to be a new case but further tests are being done to rule it out as a historical case.

Dr Bloomfield said they are working on the assumption that it is the more transmissible virus either from the UK or South Africa.

30 places visited

After release from managed isolation, he said the person did travel around the southern part of the Northland region with her husband.

"Thorough investigation has suggested just four close contacts."

He said they are also "casting the net wide" to ensure they contain any potential community transmission as a precaution.

"There is a number of locations, roughly 30, where the case has been, in the five days or so after she left managed isolation, in Northland.

He said she had been extremely careful to record QR codes which meant they have been "rapidly able" to identify places she has been.

The places will be listed on the Ministry of Health's website as soon as the businesses are notified. 

Dr Bloomfield said the woman had the Bluetooth function turned on on her app, "So we will be pushing notifications out through that" as well, he said.

In a statement following the media conference, the ministry said people who were at one of the 30 places visited by the woman are asked to self-isolate.

"For contact tracing purposes, anyone who attended one of the locations listed during the relevant timeframes is considered has a low risk of exposure however we are asking all those people to isolate and call Healthline about when and where to get a test. If you have any symptoms, get a test promptly. Close contacts have been contacted directly."