Coronavirus: Three new COVID-19 cases in managed isolation in NZ

There are three new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed on Thursday.

The latest infections bring New Zealand's confirmed case total to 1169. There are 13 active infections in the country. No cases of community transmission have been detected.

A record number of tests were processed on Wednesday - 10,436 - bringing the overall test total to 368,432.

The three new cases were all detected due to routine testing in managed isolation. The first case, a woman in her 30s, returned to New Zealand from Peru on June 20. She had been staying at the Ibis Hotel in Rotorua and returned a positive result after routine testing on day three of her 14-day managed isolation period. She has been transferred to the Jet Park Hotel, operating as a quarantine facility, in Auckland.

Fellow passengers on the same bus from Auckland to Rotorua are being contacted, Dr Bloomfield confirmed, as well as the driver, who is also being followed up as a potential contact. He was wearing PPE on the journey and has since gone into isolation. 

The second and third cases are men who arrived in New Zealand on the same flight from New Delhi, India on June 20, and have been staying at the Commodore Hotel at Christchurch Airport. Both positive results were obtained from routine testing carried out on day three of their respective stays. One man is in his 70s and the other is in his 30s. 

The men and fellow passengers on the flight, who are all now in managed isolation, were diverted to Christchurch after processing. The men have been transferred to the quarantine section of one of Christchurch's dual-use managed isolation facilities.

Both women who received an isolation exemption on compassionate grounds to travel to a funeral in Wellington on June 13 have recovered from the virus.

Revised case definition

Dr Bloomfield confirmed the COVID-19 case definition has been revised to assist health professionals with their clinical management of patients. The new definition was released on Wednesday night.

"The case definition is essentially a classification of people with symptoms that might be suggestive of COVID-19, to help clinicians decide whether they might need to be in self-isolation while awaiting the result of the test," he explained. "And whether the Medical Officer of Health needs to be informed because they're potentially at a higher-risk of having COVID-19."

The criteria will be used to assess and distinguish higher-risk individuals from low-risk individuals. The criteria includes having respiratory symptoms, as well as one of the following in the last 14 days:

  • contact with a confirmed or probable case
  • international travel
  • direct contact with an individual who has recently arrived from overseas
  • a history of working on an international aircraft or shipping vessel, or involved in the cleaning of an international airport, maritime port or areas frequently used by international visitors.

The revised case definition accompanies the updated approach to testing. Dr Bloomfield reiterated there is now a "much bigger focus" on the border and testing efforts, including the mandatory testing of new arrivals in managed isolation and surveillance testing of staff closely linked to or at the border, as well as staff at the managed isolation facilities. In addition, testing will also continue within the community, he said.

He noted the new criteria won't make it harder for people to get tested, but will ensure those considered as "higher-risk" will be "managed appropriately". People who are considered low-risk don't "necessarily need to self-isolate while awaiting test results", Dr Bloomfield said. 

Those who may be at a higher-risk of carrying the virus are required to isolate until their test result is returned and the Medical Officer of Health will be notified. Those who don't fulfill the higher risk criteria, such as having a link to international travel, may not have to self-isolate while awaiting results.

Contact tracing efforts

Dr Bloomfield provided an update on Wednesday's numbers regarding the ministry's contact tracing efforts.

Of the 55 people released from managed isolation facilities on compassionate grounds, two are still awaiting test results. One person is being followed up by enforcement services, but Dr Bloomfield said he is aware of their circumstances and they present a very low risk. Forty of the 55 have returned negative test results, while 11 are not being tested for a range of reasons.

Of the second group, which comprises the 190 guests who stayed at the Novotel between June 6 and June 13 and may have interacted with the women who tested positive after leaving isolation, five remain outstanding. They will continue to be followed up by finding services. All Novotel staff have been contacted.

Of the third group - the 2159 people who completed and departed managed isolation between June 9 and June 16 - 1184 have been contacted and tested negative for the virus. Of those people, 800 were tested before leaving isolation, while 384 were tested after departure. Test results are pending for 143 people.

The 695 others are still being worked through, Dr Bloomfield said. Those who have not returned contact attempts will be referred to finding services. Of the 695, 168 had invalid numbers and Customs and police databases will be used to locate them. One-hundred-and-thirty-seven people have not been tested, due to reasons including age, going back overseas or being part of a ship's repositioning crew. Sixty-eight of the 137 refused to take a test.