Coronavirus: All students at Papatoetoe High School asked to be retested after new case

New Zealand has recorded another community case of COVID-19, the ninth linked to Auckland's February cluster.

At a press conference at 1pm on Tuesday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the individual is a casual-plus contact from Papatoetoe High School who had been advised to self-isolate and get tested. They live in a household bubble of six people, including a sibling who attends the school. Neither the new case nor their sibling have attended school this week.

Genome sequencing on the new case is underway, with results expected later in the day. There is nothing to suggest this is a new strain, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

Testing for all other family members is happening and interviews are underway as part of contact tracing investigations. Dr Bloomfield says any locations of interest will be revealed as they emerge on Tuesday afternoon.

He couldn't say whether the family had been sticking to self-isolation rules. That is something currently being followed up on. 

The new case got tested on Monday after reporting a loss of smell and taste. They hadn't been tested before that, despite students being asked to get a test last week. 

There are still 10 casual-plus contacts from the school being followed up on, Dr Bloomfield says. Eight have been contacted by the public health unit.

A casual-plus contact is someone who has visited a location of interest at the same time as a positive case, but isn't considered a close contact. They are asked to stay at home, contact Healthline and get a test. 

All students at the school are now being asked to get retested to ensure there are no additional cases, Hipkins says.

Students and staff can get tested at the school's pop-up testing station. Some household contacts will also be asked to get tested again, but they should do this at a community centre to keep pressure off the school testing site.

Both Hipkins and Dr Bloomfield say more cases were expected from this outbreak, and catching this case shows the system is working.

While the rest of New Zealand has moved to alert level 1, Hipkins says people at the school have been taking extra precautions. People haven't been able to return to the school without getting a negative test, and through that testing, this case was picked up.

This case wouldn't have changed Cabinet's decision on Monday to move the country down to alert level 1, Hipkins says, because the case is linked to the February cluster. He believes it can be managed within our contact tracing system.

As well as the new community case, five new cases have been detected in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities over the last 24 hours.

New Zealand moved to alert level 1 at midnight on Monday. Following the three original community cases being detected earlier in February, Auckland went into lockdown for three days, while the rest of the country moved to alert level 2. Face coverings will remain mandatory on public transport on levels 1 and 2.

Prior to Tuesday, eight community cases had been recorded in relation to the Auckland February cluster. They are all genomically linked and spread between two families linked to Papatoetoe High School.

The new case appears to only have come to officials' attention in the last few hours. On Tuesday morning, Hipkins told The AM Show that he wasn't aware of any new cases overnight.