COVID-19: No new cases in the community, two in managed isolation

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

Two imported cases have been picked up at the border in managed isolation facilities. Both cases arrived from India via the UAE on March 27. They travelled together and tested positive on the first day of their stay.

The two travelled on the same flight as the 10 new cases reported on Monday.

The efficacy of the Government's pre-departure testing regime has come under scrutiny in recent days, due to the large number of returnees testing positive for COVID-19 on or shortly after arrival. To enter New Zealand, travellers must provide evidence of a negative test result within the 72 hours prior to departure.

It follows speculation that fake 'negative test result' certificates are being offered to prospective returnees. In a statement to Newshub on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said pre-departure tests are "very difficult, if not impossible" to validate, and false certificates are "challenging" to detect.

However, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the 12 new cases from the same flight do not necessarily indicate an issue with pre-departure testing.

"These recent positive cases do not necessarily indicate an issue with pre-departure testing, since people may not have been infectious at the time of pre-departure testing," the spokesperson said on Monday. "They may have been incubating the virus at the time or be exposed to the virus after being tested."

The Ministry of Health does not consider these recent cases from India as "entirely unexpected", they said, given India is currently reporting the highest number of daily cases worldwide.

"These cases again underscore the value of having the day 0/1 testing in place. All people arriving into New Zealand must remain in their rooms until those day 0/1 tests results come back."

Eight people have recovered from the virus, bringing the total number of active cases to 80. 

Grand Mercure managed isolation facility update

The investigation into the 'day 12' case at Auckland's Grand Mercure managed isolation facility  continues.

Last week, it was announced a large number of returnees recently released from the Grand Mercue had been asked to get retested due to suspected transmission within the facility.

It was initially reported that roughly 250 people had been contacted. That group has now expanded to 344, the ministry said, as it includes the last returnees who needed additional monitoring to leave the hotel.

"They are now isolating at home until they return negative test results. The assessment was that this additional step was needed until yesterday, and it has now been lifted for anyone leaving the facility from today," the spokesperson said.

As of 9am, 340 of the 344 returnees have been contacted. Of those, 315 have returned negative results. As reported on Monday, one returned a positive result, which has since been classified as a historical infection on the basis of further testing and serology results. Historical cases are not considered to be infectious. Results are pending for 28 people.

Testing update

On Monday, 3722 tests were processed. In the last week, 35,490 tests have been processed, with a seven-day rolling average up to yesterday of 5,070 tests.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,890,809.

Up-to-date information on all testing locations nationwide is available on Healthpoint.