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The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield provided an update on COVID-19 at 1:00 pm today.
There are six new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today.
One case is an imported case – a woman in her 50s who arrived in New Zealand from Qatar via Sydney on August 14. She has been in managed isolation at the Sudima Hotel in Rotorua.
The other five cases are in the community and they have all been linked to the recent outbreak.
These six new confirmed cases bring the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 1,299, which is the number Ministry of Health report to the World Health Organization.
There are 125 people from the community who have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 61 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their household contacts.
There are five people receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19, one in Auckland City and four in Middlemore.
A note on this, people who have COVID-19 and are in hospital are isolated and carefully managed separately from other patients. The public can be confident that DHBs are managing this effectively, as they did in the first outbreak of COVID-19 in New Zealand.
“We have heard reports of people who are reluctant to get an ambulance or go to the hospital – hospitals continue to be safe places to receive medical care, and people should feel confident going to the hospital to receive treatment,” said Bloomfield
Yesterday laboratories processed 23,038 tests for COVID-19. That brings the total number of tests completed to date to 639,415.
On testing, people should only get tested if they are symptomatic, connected to a case or are concerned that they may have come into contact with a case. This will help with the lab capacity right now.
Since August 11, the Ministry of Health have identified 1983 close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Also, have traced 1,861 of those people and they are self-isolating and are in the process of contacting the rest.
“We are hearing reports of some confusion among people calling Healthline as to what different groups of people need to do, so we are providing clarification on that,” said Bloomfield
Close contacts are people who have had quite close exposure to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 during the case’s infectious period – for example, living in the same household or being within 2 metres of a case for 15 minutes or more. They are likely to be at a higher risk of being infected through that exposure.
“We are asking people who have been identified as close contact to get a test and stay in self-isolation for 14 days to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19,” said Bloomfield
Casual contacts are people whose exposure to a case was shorter or further away and they don’t meet the criteria for a close contact. They are likely to be at lower risk of being infected following exposure. We are asking people identified as a casual contact to monitor their health for 14 days after exposure and seek advice from their GP or Healthline if they become unwell or develop any symptoms of COVID-19.
More information on this can be found at https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-health-advice-general-public/contact-tracing-covid-19
Auckland is in Alert Level 3, so everyone within the Auckland city boundary is being asked to stay home unless they are an essential worker, or unless they are travelling for an essential purpose, like getting groceries or medication, or accessing medical treatment.
Everyone in Auckland, and indeed all of New Zealand, should closely monitor their health – if you develop symptoms of COVID-19 please seek advice from Healthline or your GP about getting a test – “this will help us stamp out any cases in our community quickly,” said Bloomfield
Genomic sequencing continues to fill in more pieces of the puzzle about the route of transmission for the Managed Isolation facility maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel.
“Yesterday we reported that partial genome sequencing results indicated no link to our existing community cluster,” said Bloomfield
The full genome sequencing and matching have now been completed. It found the genome type called clabe B1 is one commonly seen in the US.
There have been four positive cases in New Zealand with the virus with this genomic sequence, but the full sequencing now confirms the closest match is with the July 31 returnee from the US.
Investigations on how the worker at the Rydges became infected continues.
On a related note, there has been some discussion about whether serology testing – a blood test confirming the presence of antibodies to the virus – would be useful in this and other scenarios.
“Serology tests are an important part of our suite of investigation tools and we are looking at how we can use these in the most systematic, efficient and effective manner,” said Bloomfield
Serology testing of these contacts may provide another piece in the puzzle but will only tell us someone has been exposed to the virus, not which strain.
“We have already used these tests to find out more information about this cluster, particularly in households to see if anyone else has had the virus,” said Bloomfield
“Yesterday we mentioned Pak n Save Glen Innes in Auckland as a site which had been visited by a shopper who is a confirmed case of COVID-19,” said Bloomfield
The investigation continued yesterday and further scoping revealed this person had, in fact, visited the supermarket once while infectious – on the 12th of August.
“We apologise to Pak n Save Glen Innes and Foodstuffs if that caused any issues. As we indicated yesterday this person was considered a low risk and employees and other shoppers are also considered to be at low risk,” said Bloomfield
NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded 1,556,138 – and more than 908,000 of those have been in the last eight days.
106,464 businesses have now got their QR codes across a total of 266,137 unique locations.
There have now been 234,00 QR codes generated – an increase of 16,000 in the past 24 hours.
The Ministry of Health said that It’s been great to see the New Zealanders using the app and businesses using the QR codes.
“We’ve received a high volume of requests for QR codes from businesses and the team are working through these as fast as possible. Enforcement of the order to display the codes will be pragmatic. For business, while you’re waiting, please make sure you have a suitable alternative process in place such as a pen-and-paper register,” said Bloomfield
“We have had some feedback that some QR codes are displayed in places that are not easily accessible for people with disabilities. A request for businesses to please check they have at least one QR code in an easy-to-reach location with the top of the poster approximately 130cm from the ground. Ideally, this should be the poster at the entrance to your premises. Remember you can print more than one copy of your QR code,” said Bloomfield
For any app users experiencing issues – there is an app support team you can contact on 0800 800 606 or email@example.com.
There is advice on travel into and out of Auckland on the All of Government COVID-19 website. Travel in and out of the Auckland region is restricted. There are a limited number of personal exemptions being granted, such as returning home or attending a medical appointment. There are also exemptions for work purposes – such as moving freight, emergency services, postal services or media.
“People can apply for exemptions from the Ministry of Health. We are aware that there are a number of people who have lost loved ones who are applying to attend a funeral or tangihanga that requires movement either in to or out of the Auckland region,” said Bloomfield
Travel in to or out of regions at Alert Level 3 is not permitted unless some quite specific conditions are met, and an exemption is granted.
“Advice for individuals seeking exemptions, the process and what information is needed to consider their request will be on our website today. We recognise this will be challenging for families in mourning, however, this is the best way to keep our communities safe and contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Bloomfield
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