COVID-19: No new cases overnight, 'nothing to suggest' alert level shift after Air NZ worker tests positive - Jacinda Ardern

No new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in connection to the existing Auckland cluster overnight, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.

However, some New Zealanders may be waking to the news that an Air New Zealand crew member tested positive for the virus on Sunday.

The crew member, who returned to Auckland from Tokyo, Japan on February 28, returned two negative results in the weeks prior to their diagnosis on Sunday. Due to surveillance testing, the worker had tested negative on February 22 and again on February 28, the day they returned from Japan, before returning a positive result from Saturday's test. 

Just one possible exposure event has been identified. Anyone who was at the Auckland Airport Countdown on March 3 between 12:07pm and 1:22pm is asked to monitor their health until March 17. If those who visited the supermarket begin to feel unwell, they should contact Healthline on 0800 358 5454, get tested, and stay at home until a negative test result is returned. A list of testing centres in Auckland is available here.

There is also one health appointment currently being assessed. People who were at the clinic at the same time as the crew member are being identified and will be contacted and provided specific advice. 

Ardern said there is "nothing to suggest" that an alert level change is necessary in response to the case.

"It was picked up through routine testing, it connects, you would assume, and the strong hypothesis is [the infection] has come from their work as international flight crew," she explained to The AM Show on Monday.

She also reminded Aucklanders to follow the official instructions under alert level 2 following reports that local malls were bustling on Sunday. A comprehensive guide to what Aucklanders can and can't do at alert level 2 can be found here.

The most important measures are maintaining a physical distance - at least 2 metres in public spaces and retail outlets and 1 metre in workplaces, gyms and hospitality venues; keeping track of personal movements via the NZ COVID Tracer app or a written diary; and ensuring social gatherings do not exceed 100 people.

It was later revealed on Monday morning that the crew member had been vaccinated just days before they tested positive. Speaking with TVNZ's Breakfast following her interview with The AM Show, Ardern confirmed the case had recently received their jab - but it takes around a fortnight for it to become effective.

"The person had only just been vaccinated, so they were a priority for this exact reason," she told TVNZ. 

"The issue being, of course, that the vaccine takes a couple of weeks to work. At this point it wasn't quite doing its job and nor would we have expected it to, but it does demonstrate this person was indeed a priority for us."

No new cases linked to the Auckland cluster have been identified since the region was placed under alert level 3 restrictions on February 28. Sunday marked the seventh consecutive day without evidence of community transmission.

Following Cabinet's review of the country's alert level settings on Friday, Ardern said the goal was to get Auckland back to alert level 1 - the closest to pre-pandemic normality - by the beginning of the coming weekend. The region shifted to alert level 2 at 6am on Sunday after seven days at alert level 3.