Expert warns New Zealand shouldn't wait for COVID-19 wake-up call to improve border - expert

An infectious disease expert says New Zealand shouldn't wait for a 'wake up call' COVID-19 case to improve the country's border systems.

The Ministry of Health announced a new community coronavirus case on Sunday, the first since November 2020.

The 56-year-old woman had recently completed the mandatory two weeks in Auckland's Pullman Hotel MIQ facility after returning from overseas. 

Around a week after leaving the facility, and after travelling to several shops and cafes in the Northland region, she tested positive for COVID-19.

David Murdoch, an infectious disease expert from the University of Otago, told The AM Show on Monday New Zealand is doing well at containing and managing COVID-19 but more needs to be done.

"If you look at the sheer numbers coming through and the number of cases, you'd say that we are doing quite well because this is a rare event," he said.

"But we should always be looking at how we can improve our system and not just at times when we have a case. Obviously, that focuses the mind but we should be looking all the time at how we can improve the system."

He said everything about MIQ needs to be looked at - from the amount of COVID tests taken to how long people stay in isolation.

"We certainly need to reflect on what we are doing all of the time."

He said there had been some complacency around COVID-19 in New Zealand but the case was a great reminder to remain vigilant through summer.

One of the biggest concerns about the new case of COVID-19 is that the woman had tested negative for coronavirus twice during her stay in MIQ, leading to questions about when she was infected.

Murdoch said it will be a big focus of the investigation into the case.

"The genomic testing may help us in that regard and the team will be running through a variety of different scenarios - was this picked up in the MIQ facility? Was it a long incubation period from an infection which was acquired sometime prior to arrival? But certainly, this is a really important thing to be looked at."

Two of the woman's six close contacts have tested negative for COVID-19.