Covid update: Close contacts of Northland woman all negative

All of the close contacts of the Northland community case have been tested and all have returned negative results.

And director general of health Ashley Bloomfield says the infected woman was now considered "recovered".

She was still isolating at home but was "well again".

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the negative test results were "encouraging".

There have been no new cases in the community connected to the Northland woman who tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday after leaving managed isolation at Auckland's Pullman Hotel on January 13.

Bloomfield said there were "encouraging signs" in Northland but the situation was still unfolding.

"We're not breathing out just yet."

The close contacts of the Northland woman will remain in isolation for the full 14 days despite testing negative.

The 353 guests at the Pullman Hotel at the same time as the woman are being contacted and tested - so far all staff and guests have tested negative.

There are also four new cases in managed isolation facilities today. The total number of active cases is 68 - including the one in the community.

Hipkins said he didn't think people "should be making up their own sets of rules" in response to a question about a Nelson cafe banning customers who'd recently left managed isolation - especially if it impinged on their rights and freedoms.

"We're making very hard to keep the team of five million all rowing in the same direction."

Four new cases in MIQ

There are also four new cases in managed isolation facilities. The total number of active cases is 68 - including the one in the community.

One previously reported case has now recovered. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 68.  Our total number of confirmed cases is 1,938.

On Tuesday, a total of 10,812 tests were processed. Almost three quarters of these – 8,055 – were taken from across Northland and Auckland. 

When will NZ get a vaccine?

Hipkins said he wanted to restate that the "thorough" Medsafe approval process had no impact on when the vaccines arrive in the country.

He also reiterated the vaccination programme would likely be a "year-long process" and that vaccinations wouldn't initially available to the general population as the priority was border workers and their close contacts.

Hipkins said "if you do the maths", the vaccination programme meant 10 million vaccinations because they required two doses so it would take at least 200 days to complete the overall vaccination campaign.

"It will be a numbers game."

He said he wasn't "blind" to what was happening with the rest of the world and delays other countries were experiencing.

Bloomfield said the vaccines had to go through the Medsafe approval, on top of international processes, to ensure it was safe to use on balance in New Zealand's unique circumstances where we don't have community transmission.

He said the vaccines were being used in other countries under emergency approvals - rather than the full approval process.

Hipkins said it was hard to argue on humanitarian grounds against countries with widespread transmission getting the vaccine first.

He said he couldn't see there being quick changes to border restrictions for people who've received the Pfizer vaccine and coming into New Zealand.

"I don't think that's likely to be sudden or quick."

There will be a paid advertising campaign ahead of the vaccination programme "when we need to do that", said Hipkins. He didn't have a budget for the campaign on hand.

Bloomfield said there were two parts to the campaign - firstly making sure information was available about the vaccine then a proactive campaign.

"You can start to see that in the next few weeks."

The vaccination sites will likely be similar to the testing sites, said Hipkins

Bloomfield said they'd been doing population surveying about vaccination hesitancy - 70 per cent said they would get it if they had good information, 20 per cent would get it with more information and 10 per cent said they wouldn't be vaccinated.

Testing times

More than 10,800 tests were processed yesterday.

The more than 1.5 million tests completed since the pandemic began means that we have the highest rate of testing per positive case in the world, alongside Australia.

Bloomfield said Healthline had short wait times and demand for testing at Northland testing sites had eased.

He said he didn't think it was good enough that people waited hours for a test in Northland and they were looking at how to improve standing up sites quickly.

There are 327 people who are confirmed as being at the locations of interest which the Northland community case visited - 127 of these people have tested negative. People should be isolating and getting tested if they were at those locations, Bloomfield said.


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