The two new coronavirus cases in New Zealand are women from the same family, the Director-General of Health has revealed.
One of the women is in her 30s, and the other in her 40s. They arrived in the country from the UK together on June 7, and were tested for COVID-19 on Monday.
They stayed at the Novotel – a managed isolation facility in the central Auckland suburb of Ellerslie – and were permitted on compassionate grounds to travel to a funeral in Wellington on June 13.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield admits one of the women was exhibiting “mild symptoms” on the day they travelled to the capital, while the other was symptom-free.
“There was an agreed plan in place as part of the approval for compassionate exemption – that included for the travel arrangements,” Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.
They both had testing done at the Wellington community-based assessment centre on Monday – as part of an agreed health plan with the Ministry of Health – and returned the positive tests on Tuesday morning.
The pair travelled to Wellington in a private vehicle. Dr Bloomfield said they had no contact with anyone on the journey, did not use any public facilities and have stayed with a single family member since arriving.
That family member has now been placed in self-isolation while they wait on test results.
Other potential contacts with the two cases include those who flew on a Brisbane to Auckland flight on June 7 and those who were housed in the same managed isolation facility in Auckland.
Any staff from the hotel who came in close contact with the cases will be stood down and tested, while CCTV footage from Auckland International Airport is now being reviewed to see if any border officials came in close contact. If they have, they too will be stood down and tested.
Dr Bloomfield says public health staff in Australia have been notified so they can take appropriate action with passengers who flew from the UK to Brisbane via Doha, Qatar.
He added that while New Zealand hoped it would stay coronavirus-free after the last known active case recovered last week, new cases are “not surprising”.
“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get, but it is also something we expected and planned for,” Dr Bloomfield told media at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“That is why we have geared up, and continue to gear up, our contact tracing at a local level and national capacity and capability, and also geared up our excellent testing capability so we can respond rapidly.
“We know there are people continuing to come to New Zealand – these are Kiwis who are returning from countries where there is active community spread of COVID-19 – and that is why we have the requirement of managed isolation at the border.”