COVID-19: Close contact of confirmed Auckland community cases tests positive

A family member of two COVID-19 cases who tested positive in the community last week has also contracted the virus, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced during a press conference on Thursday.

The latest case, known as Case D, is the mother of Case C, a toddler who tested positive in the community last week along with their father, Case B. The two were recent returnees who departed the Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility earlier in January.

Speaking to reporters, Hipkins and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, reiterated that Case D is not a separate case, but is associated with the existing group.

The woman was tested on January 27 and then again on January 30 when she began showing symptoms. She was then tested again on February 1 and February 2, the latter swab returning the positive result.

"This is an example of the testing system operating exactly as it should," Hipkins said.

As a close household contact of a previously identified case, the woman had already been self-isolating at home and therefore poses a "very low" public health risk. As a result, Dr Bloomfield said health officials are not expecting to see more cases connected to the family, as the woman has been "very cooperative" with her isolation.

The woman will be moved to Auckland's quarantine facility, the Jet Park Hotel.

Six additional cases have also been detected in managed isolation and quarantine facilities (MIQ), Dr Bloomfield said, three of which were picked up due to testing on arrival, or day zero. He said the returnees may have been symptomatic when entering New Zealand, and were sent directly to the Jet Park.

Hipkins said the Pullman Hotel will not be occupied after Saturday, with a deep clean of the facility commencing this weekend. On January 24, it was announced that a Northland woman - Case A - had tested positive for the virus in the community after departing the Pullman on January 15, the same day the father and child, Case B and Case C, were released.

Genomic sequencing indicates that Case B and C are linked to Case A, suggesting all three likely contracted the virus at the facility.

Hipkins said the Pullman will not be used for new arrivals until health officials are confident the risk has been resolved.

Addressing the country's upcoming vaccination campaign, Hipkins said officials have "deliberately overordered" vaccines to ensure there is enough.

New Zealand will play a "very active role" in distributing doses to the Pacific, Hipkins said. It's understood that 226,000 vaccines will have arrived in the country by the end of the first quarter.

On Wednesday, laboratories processed 5130 tests. Dr Bloomfield said good levels of testing are being maintained in the community, particularly in Auckland and Northland, providing health officials with "assurance" that there are no undetected chains of transmission.