South waits to learn of Covid-19 alert level

A new week, another Monday spent waiting for the announcement on whether the South will return to Covid-19 Alert Level 1.

Cabinet meets today, and its main order of business will be whether to confirm Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement in Dunedin last Monday that in principle the rest of New Zealand, apart from Auckland, would move to Covid-19 Alert Level 1 at 11.59pm today.

For that to happen, Cabinet will have to agree that cases of the disease have been few enough for it to be regarded as contained.

Since the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community in August, community transmission cases have only been found in Auckland and Tokoroa.

Ms Ardern has previously said the rest of New Zealand needed to remain at Alert Level 2 as there remained a risk of community transmission elsewhere once travel restrictions which prevented Aucklanders leaving the city were lifted.

From Monday to Saturday, 13 cases of Covid-19 were detected in New Zealand; 12 in managed isolation facilities and one linked to known community transmission clusters.

No community cases were detected outside Auckland.

Yesterday though, four new cases of Covid-19 were announced by the Ministry of Health, two in managed isolation and two community transmission cases linked to a New Zealander who returned from India on August 27.

That person returned two negative tests at a managed isolation facility in Christchurch before returning to Auckland on September 11.

The man developed symptoms on the 16th, and he and his family immediately went into isolation, a ministry statement said.

The family is now in a quarantine facility in Auckland.

It was possible that the man was infected during his flight to New Zealand and had an extremely long incubation period, the ministry said.

"There is evidence that in rare instances the incubation period can be up to 24 days. This person developed symptoms 21 days after he arrived in New Zealand.

"If this is the case, it sits well outside the standard incubation period of the virus."

It was also possible he was infected on his flight from Christchurch to Auckland, and all passengers aboard that plane were being contacted, the ministry said.

"This case is another example of the tricky nature of the virus, and a reminder that anyone who has been through a managed isolation facility should remain very aware of their health.

"Anyone who develops symptoms of Covid-19 should get tested and self-isolate while awaiting results as these people did."

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