Covid 19 coronavirus: Level 2 rules extended in Wellington; Masterton case under investigation

There are no Covid-19 community cases in NZ today, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

One case – a fully vaccinated health worker in Masterton who returned a weak positive test result – is under investigation. The person was in the Wellington region last week, but had not crossed the positive case or visited any locations of interest.

The person may have returned a false positive test result, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said at today’s 1pm Covid update.

Alert level 2 rules will be extended for 48 hours in Wellington, Hipkins said, adding that NZ wasn’t out of the woods yet.

It’s possible that the alert level will go down at midnight on Tuesday based on the test results so far, Hipkins said.

Wellington was moved to alert level 2 on Wednesday at 6pm. That level was originally hoped to be lifted at midnight tonight.

The vast majority of the more than 2000 contacts of the Sydney traveller who tested positive for Covid-19 have returned negative tests, Hipkins said.

Testing turnout in Wellington has been low, and Hipkins encouraged more people to be tested in the capital. New locations of interest have been announced.

Mask use is encouraged where social distancing is not possible.

NSW authorities confirmed the partner of the Covid-positive man who travelled to Wellington has now tested positive.

Aussie travel ban

Hipkins foreshadowed pre-departure testing was likely to be introduced once the transtasman bubble was reopened. The Government would consider whether the testing rule would be implemented across Australia.

“Hold tight and follow public health advice,” Hipkins said to Kiwis stranded in Australia.

People who have returned from Sydney are asked to keep to Sydney restriction rules.

Yesterday, Hipkins announced the transtasman quarantine-free travel bubble would be halted for three days starting at 10.30 last night.

The standstill marks the first time the bubble to all Australian states has been paused.

The ban on quarantine-free travel from all Australian states and territories is currently set to lift at 11.59pm (NZT) on Tuesday, June 29.

An exposure event at a Northern Territory gold mine was the tipping point for the transtasman bubble to close, Bloomfield said.

A worker at the mine yesterday tested positive for Covid, sparking concern for over 900 workers who have already left the site.

Hipkins said there was potential for the virus to have spread across Australia from this event and potentially into New Zealand.

The Northern Territory this afternoon announced a 48-hour lockdown for Darwin and Palmerston after four new locally acquired Covid cases were detected.

Greater Sydney and other parts of NSW went into a two-week lockdown at 6pm last night. The state recorded 30 new community Covid cases today.

Expert surprised at ban

Before today’s briefing, University of Otago public health expert Professor Michael Baker told Newstalk ZB he was surprised how extreme the ban was.

“I’m surprised this suspension has been extended to all of Australia because some states and territories have done at least as well as New Zealand in terms of sustained elimination.”

Baker said some states had shown an ability to quickly close borders when neighbouring states had outbreaks.

Baker told RNZ today “we’re not in the clear yet. That will take another few days of no cases.

“This could have turned into multiple super-spreading events.”

He told RNZ the case of the tourist exposed “major gaps” in the system.

“A major mode of transmission is by aerosol. The virus doesn’t care about the two-metre rule. We know it only takes fleeting contact indoors to get this infection.”

Baker said counterparts abroad were saying New Zealand needed to upgrade its approach to dealing with Covid-19.

“The virus has changed markedly and our response needs to change with it.”

Travellers with ruined plans after the travel bubble suspension spoke of their anguish and disbelief.

“We haven’t see our elderly parents since September 2019. We have endured the horrendous Melbourne lockdown,” one man told the Herald.

“We have been vaccinated. We have had clear Covid tests. There were no new cases in Melbourne today. We are New Zealanders.”

He said his parents were seriously ill and desperate to see him.


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