Covid-19: No new cases linked to airport worker

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in the community to report today and the border worker announced by the Ministry of Health yesterday has been officially included in today’s numbers.

There is one new case of Covid-19 to report in managed isolation since yesterday.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is one.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 83. Five previously reported cases have now recovered.

Our total number of confirmed cases is 2243.

Since January 1, 2021, there have been 49 historical cases, out of a total of 427 cases.

Testing information

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1982,784.

On Tuesday, 4771 tests were processed.

The seven-day rolling average up to yesterday is 4137 tests processed. 

April airport case update

The border worker reported yesterday has 25 close contacts identified to date – the seven who have been tested so far have returned negative results. One is being followed up today, and the remainder of those identified are not yet due for testing - this is because close contacts were tested on day 5 after they have potentially been exposed to the virus for the best chance of detecting any infection that may be incubating. All close contacts are self-isolating.

Of those, 17 are workplace contacts. This number will likely increase – the person worked three shifts during their infectious period with a number of colleagues, and officials are working to determine who is a close contact from their interactions. 

Last night the ministry received the results from whole genome sequencing of this person’s PCR test. 

The whole genome sequence was indistinguishable from that of a person who arrived in the country on 10 April from Ethiopia via the United Arab Emirates. The genome of both these cases is the B.1.1.7 – which is the variant first identified in the UK.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed the worker announced as a case yesterday did clean the same plane the person from Ethiopia arrived on. While there is a clear link to a known case of Covid-19, how the cleaner was infected is still under investigation.   

Earlier

A week ago there had been 135,585 jabs of the Pfizer vaccine, including 30,194 people who've had two doses out of 105,391 total recipients. The proportion of the 4500-strong MIQ workforce that had at least one dose of the vaccine was 88.5 per cent.

Last week, the Ministry of Health released the number of planned weekly doses up until the end of June. This week, DHBs plan to administer 52,925 doses, up from 46,525 last week.

This morning Hipkins said the genome sequencing results had confirmed that the airport worker's virus was linked to an infected overseas returnee, who returned to New Zealand on April 10.

The worker cleaned planes from high-risk countries and had received both vaccine jabs - which has 95 per cent efficacy in preventing symptomatic Covid-19.

An investigation was looking into whether there was any person-to-person contact between the worker and people on the infected flight, or if the worker might have caught the virus from droplets in the air inside the plane.

According to the Health Ministry, three positive cases from India, one from Ethiopia and two from Kenya all flew into New Zealand on April 10 via Dubai.

Three new locations of interest have been identified relating to the airport worker.

They are:

  • Westfield St Luke's Food Court, Saturday, April 17, 12.15pm to 2.30pm
  • Bunnings New Lynn, Saturday, April 17, 2.30pm to 3.50pm
  • Movenpick Dominion Rd, Saturday, April 17, 5.15pm to 7.20pm

Five household contacts have been tested and have returned negative results. Sixteen close contacts have been identified so far.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the fact the worker was vaccinated and didn't have symptoms meant "it's quite likely that they may have had a very low ... risk of infecting other people".

"This is right at the core of one of the great questions of vaccination, does it prevent you from transmitting the virus?

"Obviously, in this person's case, it didn't stop them from getting infected. It might be that their viral load remained very low, and their risk of infecting other people very small. That's what we're hoping the vaccine does."

Both the Australian and New Zealand governments stressed yesterday that new cases of the virus were expected and the latest infection did not threaten the transtasman travel bubble.

The case is the second airport-based cleaner to be infected through their work.

The earlier case was an LSG Sky Chefs worker who may have caught the virus after handling linen from incoming flights.

Workers like her will need to have regular Covid-19 tests under a new public health order that comes into effect at 11.59pm tonight.

Flights from India to New Zealand are currently suspended due to the high number of cases arriving from there. The temporary ban is in place until April 28, and the Government is expected to announce whether it might be extended on Friday.

This morning Hipkins wrote to border worker employers to remind them of their legal obligations to record workers' tests.

This follows the recent sampling that showed 74 MIQ workers hadn't been tested.

MIQ deputy secretary Megan Main said half of them had now been either tested or had one scheduled.

"Others were either duplicate profiles which we are continuing to clean-up, people who have finished their employment, or contractors who have said they weren't aware of the need to be tested.

"We are looking at how we can better communicate with employers and employees to ensure they are aware of their obligations. We are following up with the employers of the remaining staff to ensure they are tested with urgency."

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