COVID-19: No new cases connected to COVID-positive Auckland managed isolation worker

No new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the community in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

Additionally, no cases connected to the COVID-positive managed isolation worker, Case A, have been identified overnight. On Monday, the worker - a cleaner at Auckland's Grand Millennium Hotel - tested positive for the virus.

However, around 250 returnees who recently completed their stay at the Grand Mercure in Auckland have been told to get tested immediately, due to concerns of transmission within the managed isolation facility.

Health officials are currently investigating the possibility of transmission with the Grand Mercure in relation to a recent case who tested positive on day 12 of their stay.

Results from genome sequencing found a link between two returnees at the facility. Both are infected with the B.1.1.7 strain, the variant first identified in the UK. The returnees were staying in separate rooms on different floors, the Ministry of Health said, and arrived on separate flights within two days of each other.

An investigation into the source of the infection is underway. At this stage, no further cases within the facility have been linked to these two cases.

Both imported cases have been previously reported to the public. One is the case related to two bus journeys from the Grand Mercure to an exercise area.

As a precautionary measure, roughly 250 returnees who have been released from the facility since March 10 are being contacted on Thursday. 

Other immediate measures include additional on-site testing and exit tests for all returnees leaving the facility. Both the ministry and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will communicate with all current returnees within this facility about any additional public health measures.

Additional surveillance testing for staff at the Grand Mercure facility is being implemented as a further precautionary measure.

Fourteen returnees who were also on the bus have been classified as close contacts, based on a public health assessment of the exposure event. The assessment included consideration of their proximity to the case; the amount of time they may have been exposed; how infectious the case was likely to have been at the time; whether the virus is a new, more infectious variant; and whether infection, prevention and control protocols were followed, the ministry said.

At this stage, there is no evidence of any community transmission connected to this incident.

MBIE is conducting an internal investigation into the bus journeys to determine what happened and what improvements, if any, can be made to strengthen their processes.

Grand Millennium case

As aforementioned, no cases connected to Case A, the COVID-positive managed isolation worker, have been detected.

One location of interest - the Countdown supermarket in Mt Roskill - has been identified.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that a family member of Case A had returned a weak positive result for COVID-19 and was "under investigation". However, after undergoing an additional test and blood serology, the family member returned a negative result on Wednesday.

The family member remains under investigation as of Thursday. They are being managed as a close contact and will undergo additional testing, the ministry said.

It was also revealed on Wednesday that Countdown on Quay Street in Auckland Central was closed for a deep-clean on Tuesday after the family member, an employee at the store, returned the weak positive result. However, local public health officials consider there to be a very low risk to Countdown staffers.

As a precautionary measure, some colleagues who worked closely with the person under investigation will remain at home until they receive a negative test result five days after the possible exposure.

Shoppers and other staff are not considered to be at risk.

Border cases

As of Thursday, six new imported cases have been picked up at the border.

The first arrived on March 21 from Denmark via the UAE and tested positive at around day three of their stay in managed isolation.

Four of the six cases travelled from India via the UAE and tested positive upon arrival on March 23.

The last arrived on March 23 from Serbia and Montenegro via the UAE and tested positive on arrival.

All six are currently quaranting in Auckland.

Two previously-reported cases have now recovered, bringing the total number of active cases in New Zealand to 71. New Zealand's total number of confirmed cases to date is 2120.

Since January 1, 2021, 41 of 308 cases have been classified as historical infections.