Mystery of Crowne Plaza continues as investigators try find source of Delta outbreak

The mystery of the Crowne Plaza continues as investigators try to find the source of the Delta outbreak.

They are now looking more closely at the 'atrium thoroughfare' which sits adjacent to the MIQ hotel's reception desk.

The very atrium that's thought to be the location of the outbreak is open and operating like the past week hasn't happened.

It runs right past the Crowne Plaza hotel entrance and lobby and it's in the same building.

"Quite clearly there is a border failure here," Professor Michael Baker says. 

The current theory is as the infected person arrived at the hotel, they passed it to a member of the public.

"This is a real warning about how we operate our MIQ facilities," Prof Baker says. "We have to just think all the time about aerosols and how easy it is to transmit the virus in the indoor environment."  

CCTV footage shows a total of six people walked past while the case was in the lobby. Of those, four have been identified and three have tested negative and one person is in the process of getting a test. The last two still haven't been tracked down.

"It's not that we've identified them as the source of any potential spread," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. "They are a line of inquiry - it would be really good to be able to finally answer that question." 

The timing works out. On August 7, the infected person flew in on a red zone flight from Sydney and arrived at the Crowne Plaza.

They remained in their room until their day three test on August 9, which came back positive. 

At some stage, they infected a family of three in a neighbouring room before they were transferred to the Jet Park Hotel.

"It does tell us this person was highly infectious while they were there," Prof Baker says.

"But there is a possibility based on the timeline, this family might've had some role transmitting the virus.  

"So one of the questions that need to be looked at is, does that family who were infected use the exercise area or have any other contact with the public. The timing starts to get very important."  

There is a cluster of locations of interest within a stone's throw of the Crowne Plaza that was visited by a positive case.

They are St Pierre's Sushi, Starbucks, McDonald's, The Warehouse, St Pierre's Sushi a second time, the Elliot Stables and Countdown all before lockdown.

However, they have all but ruled out that it could be a staff member taking COVID into the community.

"All staff have tested negative at least once I think except one that's being followed up," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.  

The atrium is still open to the public now and it is one of the main access ways to a vaccination clinic that has had a steady flow of people in and out all day.

And the Crowne Plaza remains open. 

"However they have stopped any new intakes while they assess and get confident about this issue," Bloomfield says.

The country's continued lockdown depends on it.

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