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Covid 19 coronavirus: Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins on capital infection scare – new details

4 min read

See the full locations of interest at the bottom of the article

With the Wellington region now operating in alert level 2, New Zealand health officials are waiting on genomic test results to learn if the Covid-infected tourist had the virulent Delta variant.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB there had been no update from Australian officials on the genome sequencing results.

“We’re still awaiting the genome sequencing results from our positive case – we’re assuming it is the Delta variant though and New South Wales officials indicate that their expectation is that it will be linked to their current cluster thta they’re deaing with over there.”

He said the results were due last night but they hadn’t reached his office earlier today “but I would expect to get them some time this morning”.

Wellington moved into alert level 2 at 6pm yesterday – after a Covid-19 positive man from Sydney visited a spate of locations in the capital between Saturday and Monday, unaware he had the virus.

He is one of 37 people who are now confirmed with locally acquired cases in Sydney, as the Australian city grapples with an outbreak of the contagious Delta strain that is on the verge of getting out of control.

On whether the Alert Level 2 was likely to lift after 72 hours Hipkins said it would depend on what health officials discovered in the next couple of days.

Hipkins told Tim Dower he defended the length of time to tell the public about the latest positive case saying it was necessary to get all the relevant information before it was released.

“It was released within 12 hours of us finding out about it and then locations of interest within a few hours of that,” Hipkins said.

He said it took time to get information together slowed down by the transTasman time gap and a lot of the people contact tracers were trying to get hold of were asleep when people called.

He said it was important that people in locations of interest at the same time as the infected traveller got tested and stayed home.

“That way if there are any positive cases we can make sure that they are isolated and that decreases the need that we will have to do anything for longer.”

He said Healthline were bringing on surge capacity to deal with the large number of callers related to the latest scare.

“If you are in other parts of the country and you want to know what’s going on in Wellington, please don’t call Healthline to find out because that actually delays the people who need to get through being able to get through.”

Hipkins also told The AM Show that while there was an increase in testing in Wellington.

“If we start to see a widespread of cases we might need to look at something further”.

Over the next three days he hoped a further big increase of testing would occur. More testing centres were also planned to meet the demand for people who wanted or needed to be tested.

“There will be more testing stations set up today. It does take time to rally up the staff”.

That included changes to people’s rosters and taking them off other work commitments.

“There will be more today … I got a draft list last night. We will release that at some point this morning.”

On the subject of vaccinations, Hipkins said if New Zealand could have got more vaccines into the country faster then the roll-out would have been faster.

But supply had been the issue.

“I reject the term we are at the bottom of the queue”.

He said New Zealand had purchased one of the best vaccines on the market and New Zealand would be well protected.

There are now 19 locations of interest linked to the Sydneysider who was taking a brief break across the Tasman with his partner.

The man arrived in the capital just after midnight on Friday and did not show symptoms until 3am on Monday morning, the day he was due to fly out.

Public health officials have said that based on the time of their symptom onset and CT score, it was most likely the visitor contracted the virus in Sydney prior to their visit to New Zealand.

He tested positive for the infection a day after he returned home.

New Zealand health officials said genome sequencing of the visitor was expected to be known late yesterday.

Four others with the Australian couple over the weekend – two from Palmerston North and two from Tauranga – have all tested negative for Covid and are isolating in their homes.

The 58 passengers on board the inbound flight, who were all considered close contacts, had been tracked down by New Zealand authorities, while those on the return flight to Sydney were being traced by New South Wales health officials.

Meanwhile, testing stations around the capital were swamped yesterday as it was revealed the man had visited popular tourist attraction Te Papa, which had around 2500 visitors on a wet Saturday afternoon.

A number of eateries were now closed for deep cleaning and staff required to self-isolate for 14 days.

The Ministry of Health said yesterday that additional testing would be provided around the region by district health boards, which wereprioritising tests for people who had been to exposure sites or displaying symptoms.

The restrictions for the Wellington region – including Wairarapa and Kāpiti Coast – would stay in place until 11.59pm on Sunday.

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