Ministry of Health Update – 17 August

There are nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to report in the community today.

There are no new cases to report at the border.

Seven of the new cases are linked to previous cases in the cluster, and two cases remain under investigation but are strongly believed to be linked to the same cluster.

There are now a total of four cases under investigation.

As of 6 pm last night, 86 people linked to the cluster have been moved into quarantine facility, made up of 36 people who have tested positive and their household contacts.

There are five people receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19. Two are in Auckland City Hospital on a ward, and three people are in Middlemore.

The nine new confirmed cases to report today bring our total number of confirmed cases to 1,280 which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 78, of which 58 are from the recent community outbreak, and 20 are imported cases in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

Testing

We are continuing to see record levels of testing and our laboratories are continuing to meet the demand for levels we have not previously seen or processed.

Yesterday our laboratories processed 26,014 tests for COVID-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 597,956 of which almost 100 thousand were completed in the last 6 days.

As previously reported, because of the high volumes that we are seeing it may take up to 48 hours for swabs to be processed through the labs.

Only people who have symptoms should get tested. Our highest risk swabs are getting processed as quickly as possible.

Swabs of close contacts and others considered high-risk are prioritised and those with positive results are alerted quickly.

Border testing

Testing has ramped up even further at the border – both at airports and at ports.

A dedicated testing team is operating with extended hours to ensure Ports of Auckland workers have access to Covid-19 testing.

Testing of all government-agency frontline staff at the Auckland border – Customs, Biosecurity, Immigration NZ, Aviation Security – is expected to be completed soon.

We’re continuing to test staff working in managed isolation and quarantine facilities across the country.

In Auckland where more than 2500 staff work in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, 2100 staff have been swabbed on site, with further staff tested at community testing centres and GPs.

Casual contacts

Understandably there is significant interest in the contact tracing activity and locations or organisations where confirmed cases may have been.

Our contact tracing processes includes in-depth interviews, usually more than once, with confirmed cases to get a full picture of anyone they have been in close contact with and other places they have been.

Many of the media reports of organisations or locations being closed are due to positive cases having been at that location for a period.

However, in most of these instances the people that were there at the same time are casual contacts that should monitor their health and get medical advice from their GP or Healthline if they become unwell.

Some casual contacts will be asked to get tested and should self isolate until results come back.

We have been using the COVID Tracer App to contact people in the relevant locations and times when they have scanned in. I have asked the team to also publish those location and time details on our website.

Some locations of interest in the last two days where the risk is considered low at this stage:

  • Botany Mall – between 1–2 pm on August 11
  • Buttabean Motivation, School Rd, Te Atatu South – between 5.15–6 am on August 10
  • Eden Junior Rugby Club, Gribblehirst Park, Sandringham between 5.30–6.30 pm on August 11
  • a guinea pig show – at the Auckland Cavy Club, in Hall Road, Glenfield between 10 am–2 pm on August 8.

The important note here is that the risk from these locations is most often very low so please don’t feel the need to avoid these areas or organisations.

This goes for those that are also reported in the media.

NZ COVID Tracer

NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded 1,442,300 registered users, which is an increase of 68,100 in the previous 24 hours.

There have now been 210,266 QR codes generated – an increase of 16,761 in the past 24 hours.

There were 833,020 poster scans in the last 24 hours. The number of poster scans has now reached 6,249,729.

Testing at the Mt Wellington Americold NZ Ltd facility

An update on the surface testing at the Americold facilities. Swabs were taken over the weekend and flown to ESR for testing.

The testing process will take time to work through and we need all tests completed to be able the full picture. These are expected this week.

On a related note some supermarkets have said to us that some customers are concerned about frozen goods.

A reminder that New Zealand Food Safety has reviewed the most recent science from around the world about the risk of being infected with Covid-19 through contact with food or food packaging. To date, there is no evidence of transmission via food or food packaging.

Normal hygiene procedures are always a good idea, such as washing your hands before preparing food. Because of the negligible risk of transmission via food packaging, New Zealand Food Safety do not recommend any form of disinfection.

Lastly, I would like to reiterate COVID-19 is the problem – not the people who have it.

We collectively are all part the solution – and we all should acknowledge the many different people playing their part.

I repeat again: there is no shame, and no blame, in having the virus.

People who we know who have tested positive for COVID-19 are to be commended – they have done their bit to protect the team of five million, and their quick action in coming forward to be tested, and then being in isolation, means they deserve our thanks and praise.