COVID-19: New COVID-positive MIQ worker linked to Cases A and B

The new COVID-positive worker at Auckland's Grand Millennium managed isolation facility has been genomically linked to Cases A and B, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced.

Dr Bloomfield and Brigadier Jim Bliss, the joint head of managed isolation and quarantine, held a press conference on Monday afternoon to discuss the three Grand Millennium workers who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

On Sunday, it was revealed Case C, a security staffer at the Grand Millennium, had tested positive for the virus. Case C is a close contact of Case B, another security guard at the facility who returned a positive result on April 8.

Case B is genomically linked to Case A, a cleaner at the Grand Millennium who tested positive for COVID-19 on March 21. Case A is genomically linked to a recent returnee who arrived in New Zealand last month and stayed at the facility. 

On Monday, it was reported that Cases B and C had worked the same overnight shift during Easter weekend.

No locations of interest have been identified in connection to Case C as they were isolating during their infectious period as a contact of Case B. The current locations of interest are all in relation to Case B.

Case C and their partner are currently at Auckland's quarantine facility, the Jet Park Hotel. The partner returned a negative result for the virus on Sunday.

Genome sequencing has now found a clear link between Case C and Cases A and B - which is what health officials expected, Dr Bloomfield said.

The returnee, Case A and Case B all have identical genome sequences, which may suggest a direct line of transmission, Dr Bloomfield said. Case C's genome sequence is also very similar, but one base is different.

Dr Bloomfield confirmed both Cases B and C have not yet been vaccinated against the virus.

It's understood that until their swab last week, Case B, the security guard, had not been tested for COVID-19 since the middle of March - a revelation that "is a concern", according to Brigadier Jim Bliss, the joint head of managed isolation and quarantine.

He acknowledged a number of border workers are yet to be vaccinated, but reiterated that if staff are unwilling to take up the offer, they will be removed from the frontline. Workers who have refused the vaccine have not yet been shifted elsewhere, with conversations about re-deployment set to begin this week, Dr Bloomfield said.

Ten out of 11 close-plus contacts of Case B have returned negative results, Dr Bloomfield said. Of the nine casual-plus contacts, seven have also tested negative. The outstanding results are still being processed.

The majority of Case B's close contacts have also tested negative so far.

Monday's case update

As of Monday, no new border-related cases have been identified, Dr Bloomfield said. 

Seven recent returnees have tested positive in managed isolation facilities, three of which are close contacts of existing cases.

Seventeen cases have now recovered, bringing the total number of active infections to 100.

Grand Millennium update

A review of the Grand Millennium has been undertaken following the string of positive results, said Brigadier Jim Bliss. However, no significant findings were established as a result of the inquiry.

Another investigation will be undertaken regarding the operation of the facility, he said.

He noted the Grand Millennium, New Zealand's largest managed isolation facility, is a significant operation with "a diverse workforce" of 170 staff. Additional employees have now been added to the roster.

Of the staff who worked between March 22 and April 8, 98 percent were tested for the virus. 

The managed isolation and quarantine team will continue to make changes to the system, Bliss said.

How exactly the staff became infected at the facility remains unclear.