The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health have both ruled out any immediate changes to restriction levels after a man who works on ships in Taranaki and Auckland was confirmed as the latest community case of coronavirus.
In a rare Sunday press conference, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said there was little risk the disease has spread from this new community case and that the source was likely to have come through the border.
Bloomfield said the man was tested a few hours after developing Covid-19 symptoms on October 16.
He had recently worked on two ships docked at Ports of Auckland and Ports of Taranaki. One of the ships had recently been to Auckland, Taranaki and Lyttelton and is due to arrive in Napier on Sunday. No one onboard has symptoms, but crew will require public health clearance before they can get off the boat.
* Coronavirus: Pfizer says it won’t have a Covid-19 vaccine until late November
* Covid-19: Three new cases of coronavirus, all in managed isolation
* Covid-19: Premier of Victoria threatens Australian border closures over Kiwi arrivals
At a post-election press conference, Jacinda Ardern said there was no reason to suggest the need to move the alert levels.
She was confident there was enough testing of high-risk workers and said the new community case had been tested four times previously.
The public could not have been informed sooner, the Prime Minister said.
Speaking at the same media conference, Health Minister Chris Hipkins added that nothing about this case should suggest any imminent move to alert levels, as it appears to be well-contained.
He said it wasn’t appropriate to make the new case public when he found out at 6.11pm on Saturday night ahead of the polls closing.
“It is usual for it to be announced the next day once we have further background on the case.”
He said there was no cause for alarm and the system was working.
“The working theory is that it’s come off one of those ships.”
Bloomfield said the man was in New Plymouth for work while he may have been infectious on October 14 and 15. He wore a mask and gloves while on the vessel.
He spent time at a hotel and a motel and the rooms he stayed in are being deep cleaned.
The man’s close contacts are all in managed isolation or quarantine.
He had a negative test result during routine testing of port staff on October 2.
Bloomfield said the case showed how well New Zealand’s processes were working, but “the case is another reminder that Covid-19 is not going away any time soon”.
He added the risk of community transmission was “lowish”.
There are no plans to put any part of the country into lockdown at this point.
The man, who works as a marine electronics technician, drove alone from New Plymouth to Auckland on Wednesday and spent the day at home on Thursday, apart from going out to get food.
He went to work on Friday before going to get a Covid-19 test after feeling unwell.
Bloomfield said staff at the testing centre where the man was swabbed did everything right.
The man is now staying at Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility. His four household contacts are in isolation and have been tested.
Shipping industry sources said it was unlikely the man would have had much contact with anyone aboard the vessels he worked in.
He was likely to be one of a few experienced marine electronics technicians who work across the country.
It is understood the man is believed to have only gone aboard two ships at the Ports of Auckland.
The technician would have been called in by the ship’s captain to address an issue, such as a radar fault, an experienced maritime industry source said.
Such workers had minimal contact with people aboard ships, especially in the Covid-era where seafarers were taking extra precautions, the source said.
Two new cases in managed isolation were also announced on Sunday.
One person tested positive on day 12 after arriving from England via Dubai on October 5.
The other person had a positive result on day three of their stay in managed isolation. They arrived from the United Arab Emirates on October 13
A historical case in Wellington announced by the ministry on Friday has also been reported. That person has recovered.
Another case in managed isolation that had been reported on Saturday was now considered “under investigation”, Bloomfield said.
In total, 1530 confirmed cases of coronavirus had been found in New Zealand, 42 of which were active on Sunday.
After the confirmation of the community case, Auckland mayor Phil Goff reiterated warnings for people to stay vigilant.
“With the virus rampant around the world there is an ongoing risk of transmission at the border. What is important is that we have the systems in place to ensure those cases are detected early, and that is what has happened here,” Goff said in statement
“We all know what to do: get a test if you feel sick, follow good hygiene practices including regular hand washing, and keep track of your movements with the NZ Covid Tracer app.”