COVID-19: Six new imported coronavirus cases detected in New Zealand managed isolation

Six new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in New Zealand's managed isolation facilities (MIQ), the Ministry of Health announced on Monday.

There is no evidence of community transmission.

The six new infections have been recorded since the Ministry of Health's last case update on Sunday. 

One of the cases is classified as historical and deemed not infectious.

"No additional UK or South Africa variants have been identified in genome sequencing from the latest weekly sequencing run by ESR and reported to the ministry," said the statement.

"Due to a post-holiday season related lag, positive samples from Auckland were not included in this sequencing run and will be sequenced and reported on Wednesday."

The first case arrived on January 9 from South Africa via the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. They tested positive for COVID-19 at around day eight of their mandatory 14-day stay in managed isolation.

This person is a contact of a previously reported case, the ministry said, and they are currently quarantining in Auckland.

The second case arrived on January 14 from the US. This person had been infected with a COVID-like illness while overseas, the ministry said, and returned a weak positive result on arrival. A re-test on day one found antibodies indicative of a historical infection. They are currently in a MIQ facility in Christchurch.

The third case also arrived from the US on January 15, and tested positive on arrival. They are quarantining in Christchurch.

The remaining three cases all arrived on January 15 from the UK via Singapore, two of whom travelled together. All three people tested positive due to routine testing at around day one, and are quarantining in Auckland.

Three previously reported cases have now recovered, the ministry said. There are currently 85 active cases in New Zealand, with the total number of confirmed cases sitting at 1,906.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,465,758.

On Sunday, 1,868 tests were processed, the seven-day rolling average sitting at 3,513.

All travellers arriving into New Zealand - excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific nations - are required to undergo tests on day zero or day one of their stay. The new arrivals are also required to remain in their rooms until the result is known, the ministry said.

This requirement will be progressively introduced over three days starting on Monday. 

Auckland Airport.
Auckland Airport. Photo credit: Getty

Transit passengers to Fiji

The Ministry of Health reiterated its earlier statement that two Air New Zealand passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 on day 12 in Nadi, Fiji had only transited through Auckland.

The two people had also transited through "high-risk areas" Brisbane and Doha before arriving in Nadi on December 24.

"There are robust procedures in place for passengers transiting through New Zealand in place at our airports. Transiting passengers remain airside at the airport and border staff apply the same precautions to them that they do to all passengers including PPE, physical distancing and infection prevention and control procedures," the ministry said.

"We have confirmed that of the passengers from the Doha/Brisbane flight whose final destination was Auckland, all have completed managed isolation with no positive cases reported."

Norway vaccine programme

The Ministry of Health also addressed reports that a number of elderly people died in Norway after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It has been reported that the deaths occurred in very frail patients who may have had only weeks or months to live, and further investigation is underway.

"We are closely monitoring this situation as well as the results of the vaccine rollout out in other countries, including reported reactions and the overall safety profile of the vaccine. This includes the frequency of some reactions, the severity, and any previously unknown reactions. This monitoring will add to the clinical data we expect to receive from Pfizer."

As with all medicines, Medsafe will thoroughly evaluate the COVID-19 vaccines to ensure they are safe, effective and appropriate for use in New Zealand, the ministry said.

"No vaccine will be made available for public use in New Zealand until it has completed Medsafe's assessment process and been approved as safe for use here."

Saliva testing

The Ministry of Health and ESR is considering introducing saliva PCR testing to further strengthen New Zealand's testing regime at the border.

ESR is about to commence saliva testing of Air New Zealand aircrew as part of research into testing for COVID-19. This research, which complements current work underway with the Ministry, will be provided to the Ministry of Health.

"Saliva testing is considered a good additional option for those that require frequent testing, such as border workers, where saliva based testing can complement regular nasopharyngeal testing."

The PCR nasopharyngeal swabbing method is considered the gold standard for COVID testing as it detects the virus most effectively. Border workers in New Zealand will continue to be tested on a regular, routine basis with the nasopharyngeal swabs due to their high sensitivity.  


NZ COVID Tracer now has 2,447,415 registered users. Scans of QR code posters have reached 154,588,750 and users have created 6,247,170 manual diary entries.

The next update is planned for 1pm on Wednesday, January 20.