Daily COVID-19 Developments (18.08.20)

Daily COVID-19 Developments (18.08.20)

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The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield provided an update on COVID-19 at 1:00 pm today.

13 new total cases. No new cases in managed isolation. Twelve of the 13 new cases are linked to previous cases in the cluster, and one remains under investigation but is believed to be linked to the same cluster.

The number of active cases is 90, of which 69 are from the recent community outbreak, and 20 are imported cases in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

There are six people receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19, two in Auckland City Hospital, and four in Middlemore.

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The 13 new cases bring a total number of confirmed cases to 1,293, which is the number MOH (Ministry of Health) reports to the World Health Organization. 

One previously reported probable case has now been classified as under investigation.

Genomic sequencing:

Genomic sequencing has provided more information about two cases of COVID-19 that were under investigation.

“We have been able to genomically link the household of five positive cases – with one person currently in Auckland hospital – to the existing cluster. It still remains for us to investigate how the household is epidemiologically linked, but we now know that the virus found in the cluster is closely linked to the one in this household,” said Bloomfield.

This gives us a level of reassurance that these people are part of the same cluster rather than two separate clusters.

In addition to this – partial genome sequencing results indicate that another case is not linked to the community cluster.

This second case is a man who is a maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel, which is being used as a managed isolation facility in Auckland.

The man carried out maintenance tasks on rooms between bookings, following full infection prevention and controls, including wearing appropriate PPE.

He tested positive on August 16, and the partial genome sequencing indicates his case is most closely linked to a positive case from the Rydges on July 31, a returnee from the USA.

Further genome sequencing and matching are being completed on this case today.

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Contact tracing:

Since August 11, 1,880 close contacts have been identified and 1,691 of those have been contacted and are self-isolating.

“We are in the process of contacting the rest. A number of locations can become of interest as we go through our contact tracing process,” said Bloomfield.

In most instances people who were at the location at the same time as a person who has later tested positive for COVID-19 as considered casual contacts who should monitor their health and contact their GP or Healthline if they become unwell.

Some casual contacts will be asked to get tested and should self isolate until results come back.

There is no need to avoid or discriminate against these places.

“We are releasing this information so anyone who may have been present but has not been identified through contact tracing interviews or processes can be aware and know what they need to do. The risk is very low. We have been using the COVID Tracer App to contact people in the relevant locations and times when they have scanned in,” said Bloomfield.

Many of the locations yesterday include households, but there are two locations of interest:

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Pak n Save Supermarket, Apirana Avenue, in Glen Innes, Auckland. The confirmed case visited the supermarket a number of times between 31 July and 8 August, sometimes for up to an hour.
Mt Roskill Primary School. The confirmed case was there in the 24 hour period between 1.40 pm on the 10th and 1.40 pm on the 11th of August.

Anyone who visited these locations during that period should be aware of symptoms and seek a test if they become symptomatic.

Testing at the Mt Wellington Americold NZ Ltd facility

A final report is expected to be completed imminently from MPI and ESR which have investigated one possible route of transmission for the virus through chilled surfaces on materials arriving from overseas.

The full report will have the detail, but it seems clear that this possibility is being ruled out by the investigation.  

“We expect to have the details of this announced later this week,” said Bloomfield.

Face masks

The Ministry is aware that misinformation has been circulating on social media that face masks can restrict the flow of oxygen into your lungs and therefore your bloodstream.

It’s important to make sure everyone knows this is totally false – the pore size of a face mask is typically more than 1,000 times larger than an oxygen molecule.

To demonstrate their safety, Tom Lawton, a doctor in the UK, recently ran for 22 miles – about 35 kilometres – while wearing a three-layered face mask.

Throughout the run, he wore a pulse oximeter on his finger to monitor his oxygen levels, which never dropped below 98 per cent.

To put that in context, a reading of under 90 per cent would be considered low. So, the message to New Zealanders is to make sure you get your information from a reputable source such as the Ministry’s daily updates – not social media – and that wearing a face mask will not restrict your flow of oxygen, even if you have a respiratory condition.

You can find guidance on the Ministry’s website on how to use a face mask safely.

Businesses/Apps:

NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded 1.5m users – 1,499,000 which is 37% of the population aged 15 and over.

There have now been 234,00 QR codes generated – an increase of 16,000 in the past 24 hours.

The number of poster scans has now reached over 7,240,000 – more than 1,081,000 manual entries.

To clarify for all New Zealanders and businesses, customers and visitors who scan the QR code with the NZ COVID Tracer app don’t also need to sign into the contact register maintained by the business.

Site-specific contact tracing registers are for customers and visitors who are unwilling or unable to use the NZ COVID Tracer app.

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