Coronavirus: No new COVID-19 cases in Wellington, critical test results outstanding

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has told The AM Show there are no new cases of COVID-19 in Wellington.

A large number of test results came in late on Thursday and none have come back positive. However, it is the results from tests on Thursday afternoon and Friday that will be critical, Dr Bloomfield said.

"We did see a lot of tests yesterday. We will have the exact number through shortly. Great to see people doing what was asked of them."

He said he was hoping New Zealand had dodged a bullet.

"I am hoping we have... the person had been out and about a lot, had been in some quite crowded places and obviously that is where we know there can be a risk. If someone is a spreader, you can get quite a lot of spread in those places.

"So far, so good. We will all be watching with interest."

On Wednesday, there were 6999 tests nationally, of which 2100 were in the Wellington region - five times the number of the day before. Additional testing stations were stood up on Thursday, with the ability to do 4500 swabs on Friday.

Priority is being given to those who have been at a location of interest at the specified time and individuals who are symptomatic. An additional location was added on Thursday evening - the men's toilets of level 1 at the southern end of the Domestic Concourse.

Genome sequencing of the COVID tourist from New South Wales - who was in Wellington from Saturday to Monday - remains underway, the Director-General told The AM Show.

"The people who run their genome sequencing lab [in Australia] are unwell. Not with COVID. So they are behind on their sequencing."

However, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday that New South Wales health officials have confirmed an epidemiological link of the person to the Bondi cluster, providing reassurance the person did not contract COVID-19 in Wellington.

"Four initial close contacts in New Zealand who were previously identified are isolating, following public health advice, and have all returned negative test results.

"So far, 420 people have been identified as contacts – of those, 167 have been tested, 15 have returned a negative result, and the remaining are pending a test result.

"Of the 420 people, a significant number of these people have been referred by Healthline, so they have already been given key public health information around isolating and getting tested. Of those people, 164 have been spoken to by our contact tracing team."

Dr Bloomfield on Friday also pushed back on criticism that the Ministry of Health took too long to notify Wellingtonians about the case. 

Australian authorities first revealed the case had been to Wellington late on Tuesday night. While New Zealand officials became aware of the case before 8pm on Tuesday night, it wasn't until just before 6:15am on Wednesday that the Ministry of Health confirmed the case had visited Wellington. It then revealed locations of interest in batches throughout the morning.

"This isn't a sausage factory here. One of our public health colleagues in the regional public health office was up most of the night on Tuesday actually assessing each of these locations to see what the level of risk is.

"It is very important that we ask people to do the right thing. We have got hundreds of people we are asking to isolate for 14 days, be tested two or three times, that is quite a disruption to their lives. We do have to get it right."