NZ's new COVID-19 cases had physical contact with two friends, Ministry of Health confirms

Two women with COVID-19 had physical contact with friends after getting lost in Auckland, the Ministry of Health confirmed. 

The women, who were granted a compassionate quarantine exemption and allowed to leave isolation, were travelling from Auckland to Wellington to see their dying parent. But after getting lost on Auckland motorways they called their friends for help. 

"On realising this they phoned the same friends who supplied the vehicle, who met and guided them to the correct motorway so they could go in the right direction," the Ministry of Health announced in a statement. 

"As part of this, the pair were in limited physical contact with the two friends for approximately five minutes."

They also made contactless deliveries of food or care packages to the women while they have been in self-isolation in recent days, the ministry says.

"These packages were contactless deliveries and the friends who have delivered the packages have taken all appropriate precautions to maintain physical distance. As such there is no risk to the community from these interactions."

The Ministry of Health said the new information came to light during a second interview on Tuesday with their local public health unit and they only found out on Wednesday afternoon.

"It is important to remember that the two women were distressed at the time by the sudden death of their family member.  

"It is not uncommon for information and details to evolve, including details being missed during case interviews and contact tracing where there is heightened emotion, intense grief and stress."

The friends have been in contact with health authorities, and have been tested for COVID-19, with results not yet confirmed. They are currently in self-isolation.

The Ministry of Health originally said the two women with COVID-19 drove non-stop from Auckland to Wellington, using no toilets or petrol stations, and had not come into contact with anyone since, apart from a parent.

But National had refuted the claims in Parliament on Wednesday.

"The two individuals went the wrong way on their journey and came into close contact with the people who gave them directions," said National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse.

"It's worth asking the question about how they procured that vehicle and who they came into contact with..."

He also claimed the friends were given a "kiss and a cuddle" as a thank you for their help before the women left for Wellington.

The Government has now suspended compassionate exemptions to stop further cases of COVID-19 spreading through New Zealand.