Medical professor warns COVID-19 case which flew into Wellington of 'serious concern', could cause 'significant outbreak'

A medical professor says it's "a serious concern" a person who has tested positive for the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is believed to have flown into New Zealand and warns it "has the potential to cause a significant outbreak".

On Tuesday night the New South Wales health department confirmed a flight from Sydney to Wellington on Friday and a return flight on Monday were associated with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

All passengers on both flights are considered close contacts and are required to get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.

University of Auckland medical professor Des Gorman told Newshub on Wednesday morning the case in Wellington is "a serious concern".

"The Delta variant is a very serious form of COVID and as a result of someone being in Wellington for a few days, it really depends on how infectious they were when they were here and where they went. I think we need to find out exactly where this traveller went as soon as possible and begin some quite aggressive contact tracing and community surveillance."

He said it is particularly worrying that it was the Delta variant, which was first identified in India and is becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

"It certainly is a more infectious form of COVID so if this person has been out and about and they have been shedding the virus, it certainly has the potential to cause a significant outbreak," Gorman said.

"I think we have to hope he or she wasn't particularly infectious when they were here and that their activities were limited - but we certainly don't know that yet. What's required now is places that this person visited and everyone who went to those places at those times really need to go and get tested as a matter of urgency."

However, he did say New Zealanders shouldn't be panicking.

"I don't think there's any point in panicking under any circumstances. As soon as the places of interest are declared where this person visited, people who went there should get tested right away and then stay home until they get a test result. I think with our public health measures we know what to do."

The public health alert came just hours after the New Zealand Government paused the quarantine-free travel bubble with New South Wales as the state's outbreak grows.

Ten new community cases of COVID-19 were announced on Tuesday in NSW, taking the Australian state's recent community cases linked to the cluster to 21.

The pause came into force from 11:59pm on Tuesday and will be in place for 72 hours initially. This decision will be reviewed on Thursday.

Gorman said he thought it was the right decision.

"I think pausing the travel bubble with New South Wales made sense because our contact tracing isn't particularly good… because so few of us have been vaccinated we are particularly vulnerable and particularly vulnerable to the Delta variant."