Coronavirus: Ministry of Health still trying to contact 427 who left managed isolation

The Ministry of Health is still trying to contact more than 420 people who left managed isolation facilities earlier in June.

Between June 9, when alert level 1 began, and June 16, 2159 people left isolation facilities which house Kiwis returning home to New Zealand from overseas for at least 14 days. 

The Ministry of Health advised on Saturday that of that group, 1228 have been contacted and have tested negative for COVID-19. That figure is made up of 800 people who were tested before leaving the facilities and 428 tested afterwards. A further 367 have been referred for a test, but the Ministry does not yet have the result.

There are, however, 427 people who the Ministry "have repeatedly tried to make contact with, including via text and via phone calls".

A statement from the Ministry earlier this week said their protocol was to text people first before calling at least four times. These people are urged to call Healthline's dedicated team on 09 302 0408.

"As needed we will refer people we do not make contact with to finding services. 92 of these had invalid phone numbers, so have been referred to finding services.

"We have had 137 people who will not be tested because of reasons such as being a child, being part of repositioning crew, currently being overseas or they are refusing a test. 79 people have refused testing."

Focus on border measures intensified last week after it emerged two women were granted compassionate leave from managed isolation without being tested. They later tested positive for COVID-19.

When alert level 1 began, it was understood that everyone would be tested on day three and day 12 of their stays. However, this didn't happen in every case. The Director-General of Health has since also reiterated that anyone leaving the facilities must first test negative. 

Border controls are particularly important while New Zealand has few domestic restrictions. As the pandemic accelerates overseas and the volume of people returning home increases, the measures are our first line of defence.

Two cases were caught at the border over the last 24 hours, one of whom initially tested negative for the illness. 

"What this case highlights is the importance of 14 days spent in managed isolation or quarantine together with daily symptom checks," Dr Bloomfield said on Saturday.

"Even with all returnees being tested twice during their stay in managed isolation, we continue to do a daily check for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as part of our broader programme, which includes strict protocols in our managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

"The addition of testing is providing us with an extra level of assurance that we can identify people in managed isolation who have COVID-19 and, if they do, they can then be managed appropriately. So saying, the protocols in place at managed isolation facilities are based on the assumption that people may have COVID-19 until they complete their isolation period."

New Zealand now has 16 active cases of the virus, all in managed isolation or quarantine. There has been no recent community transmission.

On Friday, 9178 tests were completed, taking the overall total to 387,435.