COVID-19: South Auckland churchgoers in self-isolation after positive case attends service

A case of COVID-19 has been found in the community that's not linked to the Auckland cluster and health officials are desperately trying to ring fence it.

A maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel in Auckland's CBD tested positive on Sunday. It's the first time a staff member at a managed isolation facility has tested positive for COVID-19.

The man is now in the Jet Park quarantine facility. All staff and returnees at the Rydges Hotel are being retested and contact tracing is underway.

It's known the maintenance worker attended Emmanuel Cook Islands Good News Fellowship church services on Sunday, August 9. On August 11, he displayed symptoms of COVID-19.

He was well when he took a routine test at work on August 13. Three days later, on Sunday, he went into self-isolation when it returned a positive result.

One focus is a school in Otara, where the church services he attended were held last Sunday.

Fifty-six casual contacts who attended the services have been identified - all but two have been contacted and are in self-isolation and being tested.

But Wymondley Road School principal Fleur Petelo says pupils and the wider community are safe.

"We can confidently say there is no to low risk for the pupils. On the 9th of August someone entered our school hall," she says.

"It was a Sunday, they came to go to church and that is outside of our school hours where there's no staff or students on site."

Deep-cleaning is underway as a precaution.

"As we identify new contacts they are effectively already in isolation because of the level 3 requirements," says Health Minister Chris Hipkins.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says genome sequencing shows he likely caught it from an overseas returnee.

"The genome sequencing indicates this case is not linked to the current outbreak in the community but is most closely linked to a positive case that was in the Rydges and was identified on the 31st of July - this is a returnee from the US."

But Dr Bloomfield says just how the worker got it remains "a little bit of a mystery".

The man carries out maintenance on rooms between bookings after they've been cleaned. Investigations are looking into surface contamination as well as the human to human transmission.

"Close analysis of movements were undertaken and this includes a review of CCTV. We've also reviewed room entry data to look for [a] connection to cases with other guests," says Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of managed isolation and quarantine.