Fresh COVID-19 community cases lead to call for border restrictions review

There were three community cases unable to be linked to the Auckland cluster this weekend.

Health authorities say two of the cases are household contacts of a man who arrived on a flight from India last month.

That man completed his managed isolation, but developed symptoms and tested positive six days later.

It's prompted the question - do we need to keep returnees in isolation for longer?

The Ministry of Health revealed two community cases of COVID-19 on Sunday are linked to Saturday's confirmed case - a recent returnee.

He arrived from India on August 27 and completed two weeks of managed isolation at the Crowne Plaza in Christchurch, returning two negative tests.

He then flew home to Auckland on September 11. But the man developed symptoms five days later and tested positive.

The source of the virus is still under investigation but genomic sequencing is consistent with two confirmed cases from the same flight from India.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there are two most likely ways the man could have become infectious.

"Could be the person was actually infected before they left India, on the flight from India, during the period of managed isolation or subsequently even on that flight from Christchurch to Auckland."

But he says there's no risk to the public

"We make sure all the close contacts are identified, isolated and tested and so far that testing hasn't turned up any additional cases," he says.

Even though the man tested positive five days after leaving managed isolation, Dr Bloomfield says there's no need to extend the quarantine period.

"At this stage 14 days is the gold standard," he says.

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says the chances of incubating the virus for longer than two weeks is low.

"It's between 1 and 2 percent," he says.

But Prof Baker says border restrictions need to be reviewed.

"If we find that some countries have such intense transmission that we're seeing a lot of imported cases from there I think we'd want to think hard about that and how to manage that risk," he says.

He wants returnees to isolate at their homes for a week after leaving quarantine facilities.

"Stay in their family group, not go to work or school and wear a mask." 

News of the two community cases comes ahead of Monday's alert level announcement. Despite this, the man modelling COVID's spread for the Government says it shouldn't stop the rest of the country moving to level 1 tomorrow night.

"There's a low likelihood that the new cases have led to unknown cases so I don't think this will affect their decision tomorrow," Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy says.

A lot for the Prime Minister to weigh up before tomorrow's big announcement.