All returnees in managed isolation will now be required to stay in their rooms for the last two days of their time in quarantine after new Covid-19 cases were discovered in the community.
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the latest two community cases, who were re-tested yesterday and announced last night, were a father and his young daughter from Auckland’s North Shore.
They have been moved into quarantine along with the child’s mother. It’s been confirmed the father and daughter also have the South African variant. They recently returned to New Zealand and left managed isolation at Auckland’s Pullman Hotel on January 15.
Bloomfield said there was still no evidence of community transmission. New Zealand will have a “very good picture” tomorrow as to whether there has been community transmission, he said.
Interviews have been carried out with the family who tested positive and the list of the locations they visited is on the Ministry of Health website and Bloomfield said this would continue to be updated.
The father was not at work and the child was not at an early childhood centre.
Bloomfield said the long exposure events was to “cast the net wide” as a precaution, he said.
Close contacts of the family have been identified and are isolating and being tested.
Bloomfield said the queues at the pop-up testing stations in Ōrewa and Albany have now reduced to about 30 minutes. There is also now food, water and sunscreen at the sites and traffic management.
Bloomfield said he wanted to see even more people using the Covid Tracer up and thanked Kiwis for the surge in scanning in recent days.
Pullman Hotel under microscope and new MIQ rules
The Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility is under the microscope after three people were infected during managed isolation.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Pullman Hotel is closed to new arrivals while an investigation is underway into how the virus spread. Once all its current guests have left it will also undergo a deep clean. Investigators will also look at whether there are any risks that need to be mitigated – including whether exercise rules needed to be changed.
The Pullman Hotel is one of the largest MIQ facilities and Hipkins said, on the whole, it had performed very well.
Hipkins said the investigation has established that the source case and the other cases have been out of their rooms at the same time but for different reasons.
So it appeared that there could have been some circumstantial conditions where the virus could have spread, such as in a lift or hallway, he said.
The CCTV upgrade at the Pullman “has not been completed” so it’s not as good as other facilities and Hipkins said it was “unfortunate” the Pullman was one of the last facilities to get the upgrade.
All returnees are now required to stay in their rooms after their day 12 test – this is an interim measure and will come into effect from Saturday. It could, however, become permanent, he said.
Hipkins said he was also due to get more advice at the end of the week as to whether they needed to change the spread and arrival of returnees.
The introduction of day 0 testing was introduced after the latest cases and that “will make a difference in the future”.
There were 219 staff working in the Pullman between 9 to 13 January – 201 have been tested and all have been negative except the two positive cases last night. They are awaiting two test.
Hipkins said the 52 guests from the Pullman who haven’t yet been tested or had their results have been contacted and been told to isolate.
Bloomfield said those people were being continued to followed up and they had codes on their samples so the laboratories knew to expedite the tests.
Asked what happened during a deep clean, neither Hipkins nor Bloomfield knew exactly what was involved.
PM on new community cases
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier said she seeking advice from health officials on extra measures for travellers after completing managed isolation.
Ardern said “something had happened”, resulting in the virus being spread among guests at the Pullman Hotel. As a result no new returnees were coming into the hotel while the situation was being investigated.
An Auckland parent and child who also recently left the Pullman were confirmed as cases last night. They are being moved to a quarantine facility.
This morning, Hipkins said the infection spread was alarming and investigations were under way to determine what had led to the current outbreak.
“There does appear to be something at the Pullman Hotel and we’re looking very closely to identify what it was there,” he told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.
Those already in managed isolation at the hotel would be forced to stay there until they had contained the risk and the hotel would not be accepting new arrivals.
“The Pullman hotel will empty out a little bit and we’re not letting anyone leave the Pullman hotel at this point until we’re absolutely certain we’ve contained whatever the risk is,” he said.
Last night the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said a number of measures were being imposed as a result of the infection breach.
It included a deep clean of commonly used areas, tighter restrictions on movement of returnees including no arrivals or departures from the facility, and increasing hotel ventilation.
The Ministry of Health was also requesting returnees who had recently left, to not fly, to stay home and have an additional test within 48 hours.
Staff posted at the facility were being restricted from working at other sites.
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