There are five new confirmed Covid-19 cases today – all related to the community cluster in Auckland.
Four are in Auckland and the other one is related to the Tokoroa case.
There are six people in hospital, including one person in intensive care in a stable condition.
There is another case under investigation which was originally classed as being connected to the Auckland cluster.
They visited St Lukes Mall on Wednesday August 12, which has been shut since alert level 3.
Americold outbreak probably person-to-person contact
“Very low” levels of the virus were found on swabs from one of the Americold facilities but they were too low for transmission, so surface infection has now been ruled out.
As such, officials have ruled out the first infection of the Auckland cluster came from refrigerated items in the Americold store.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield gave today’s update.
Rydges case – lift contamination possible source
The maintenence worker from Rydges Hotel who tested positive but who is not related to the broader Auckland cluster used the same lift “very shortly” after a Covid-positive woman from the United States, Bloomfield said.
It was a matter of minutes between the maintenance worker and the Covid-positive woman being in the lift.
This was a “strong line” of investigation.
The two nurses who went into the woman’s room have both now returned negative test results.
Bloomfield said it “probably always was” from person-to-person contact but officials can’t identify how the first person became infected.
“We haven’t got any hints yet about what came before that.”
Bloomfield said people wanting tests who weren’t symptomatic were putting additional unnecessary pressure on the testing regime.
Bloomfield said there was an expectation bus drivers transporting MIQ guests should wear masks.
Next few days could be critical
Hipkins said he knew restrictions were “difficult and frustration” but the next few days could be critical “to breaking the back of the latest resurgence” of the virus. He urged people to stay in their bubbles and keep following the rules.
He said 1.6 million people have now downloaded the Covid Tracer app.
There have been about 7800 requests for exemptions to get in or out of Auckland – more than 1000 have been granted and about 100 declined.
More than 18,000 tests were processed yesterday.
There had been 7649 workers at Auckland Airport and Ports of Auckland tested. Another 370 people considered higher risk because they’re on the frontline have also all been tested barring a “very small number”.
Ninety-nine per cent of workers at MIQ facilities have now been tested – there are seven people left.
All have tested negative except for the “mystery Rydges case”.
No sign of transmission outside border
Hipkins said this showed a strong indication there was no sign of transmission outside of the border.
He acknowledged the Pacifika community as data showed they were being tested at a much higher rate than other populations.
“Everyone who takes a test should be seen as a community test.”
Another rumour scotched
Hipkins said the latest rumour that Oranga Tamariki would take away children of positive cases was completely untrue.
Genome sequencing of the new case under investigation is still ongoing and Bloomfield said he couldn’t hypothesise about whether it was a third strain of transmission until the results were back.
When Cabinet reviews the alert levels tomorrow, they will look at the latest information about the cluster, contact tracing, results from the surge of testing, whether there are any cases that can’t be connected and whether any new cases are within the existing contacts or if they weren’t known about previously.
“There’s not an exhaustive list of hard and fast rules here,” Bloomfield said.
The Prime Minister will take the podium tomorrow afternoon about Cabinet’s decision.
Hipkins said his focus now was “regularising” testing over the next few days, not about the miscommunication between the Ministry of Health and Cabinet.
Bloomfield said the level 3 restrictions meant the three DHBs in Auckland had scaled back planned care and this would be reviewed tomorrow.
Bloomfield said the Health Ministry was in the process of rolling out the testing strategy across multiple sites and agencies.
“It just required more scale up and more coordination.”
The perimeter of the Auckland cluster was becoming more defined yesterday and there was increasing confidence the outbreak was contained.
But there were still no clues about how the outbreak got into the community.
The cluster yesterday had 74 cases, making it the fifth largest since the start of the pandemic. They were all contacts of previously confirmed cases.
There were no other cases linked to the maintenance worker from the Rydges Hotel border facility, who tested positive this week.
All staff and guests were being re-tested with genome sequencing to establish how the man was infected, ruling it was connected to a woman who stayed in the hotel at the end of July.
The pair had zero person-to-person contact so officials are looking into whether there was a third person or possibly whether the virus was spread via a contaminated surface.