Coronavirus: Three new cases, six historical cases

The Ministry of Health is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 not connected to the Auckland cluster and, for the first time, six historial cases.

Those six historical cases from Waikato are made up of one confirmed case dating back to February and five probable historical cases connected to the February case. 

"These cases present no risk to the public," the Ministry of Health says.

"This infection occurred in late February following exposure to an infected person from Italy (another family member)."

The ministry says the family member was visiting New Zealand at the time when they became unwell with COVID-19 symptoms. The wider household then became unwell.

"At the time, they did not meet the case definition for testing for people with defined symptoms who had travelled from or transited through China. Italy had not at that point been identified as a country of concern. This meant the New Zealand household was not tested at the time," the ministry says.

"Today's historical confirmed case (a man) recently developed a sore throat and sought testing. The weak positive result, combined with serology test results and case history, is consistent with an old infection. At this stage, only the man will be counted as a confirmed case as he has returned a weak positive result on the PCR test. The other family members will be recorded as probable cases."

This means that the infected family member from Italy is "effectively now the first case we are aware of in New Zealand" as they reported having symptoms on February 21. Previously, our first case was reported on February 28.

"Consequently, the other household cases would represent the first locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, given the onset of symptoms from 29 February for the confirmed case. Further investigation will continue."

As part of the ministry's investigation, close contacts of the man during his recent mild illness have been tested as a precaution. But they have returned negative tests. 

The three new cases are community cases, but not connected to the Auckland August community cluster. Instead, they are a family group "linked to a previously reported Christchurch to Auckland chartered flight" and have been isolating for the last three days.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that a man who tested positive for COVID-19 was a recent returnee. The man, who arrived back from India on August 27, completed his 14 days of isolation with two negative tests.

However, after leaving managed isolation in Christchurch and returning to Auckland, he tested positive. The origin of the man's infection is under investigation, but earlier genome sequencing found his case consistent with two others who tested positive on a flight from India. It's possible the man was infected on the flight and had an unusually long incubation period.

The man was on the chartered flight between the two cities and the ministry said on Wednesday that all 86 people on the flight have been contacted. They are in the process of being tested or already have been tested. Sixty-three have returned a negative test.

"In tracing this man's history and how he became infected, we can update that one of two remaining cases from his earlier Delhi-Fiji flight has now been sequenced and been shown to be a close match.  The second result is still pending," the ministry said.

"We continue to investigate how his infection may have come about."

Thirty-seven people are now isolating in the Auckland quarantine facility from the community. This includes 17 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their household contacts.

Three people are in hospital - one each in Auckland City, Middlemore and North Shore hospitals. All three are in isolation on the general ward.

Since August 11, 4014 close contacts have been identified, of which 4006 have been contacted and are self-isolating or have completed their isolation period. The rest are being contacted.

With Wednesday's new cases and three recovered cases, our active case total is 62. Twenty-eight of these are imported cases in managed isolation or quarantine facilities and 34 are community ases. New Zealand has now recorded 1468 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, labs processed 6938 tests, taking our overall total to 924,637.

There are now 2,255,500 users registered on NZ COVID Tracer app. It has recorded a total of 72,556,153 poster scans and users have created 3,203,810 manual diary entries.