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Covid 19 coronavirus: Have we seen the end of the Valentine’s Day cluster?


Papatoetoe High School resumed classes today after the lastest community outbreak saw three pupils infected with coronavirus. Photo / Alex Burton

Just hours before Auckland learns if alert levels will be revised down, the country will learn if any new cases of Covid-19 have emerged in the community today and if the much-awaited shift remains on hold.

The Ministry of Health is due to release a statement giving the latest update at 1pm.

This morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced there had been no new community cases overnight.

She told The AM Show she expected the Auckland region to drop down to alert level 1 today, so long as there were no new cases linked to the cluster.

“Bar anything untoward arising, I would expect we move down the alert levels,” Ardern said.

If there are no new cases linked to the cluster it will mean the third consecutive day without fresh cases in the community. The toll for this latest outbreak stands at six.

It includes three students at Papatoetoe High School.

This morning, classes resumed at the South Auckland college minus the infected pupils and 31 close contacts who will remain in self-isolation and quarantine for another week.

All those returning to school must test negative for Covid-19.

It’s been just over a week since New Zealand took extreme measures to curb a community outbreak which was confirmed on February 14, with no clear source of transmission from the border.

By Friday, six people – three members of two families – were found to be infected.

As a result, more than 71,000 people were tested across Auckland and Taranaki, where members of one of the infected families had been on holiday while infectious.

All cases were epidemiologically linked but health officials have not found a clear link to the border.

Last week it emerged there was a possibility the genome structure had similarities to a returnee who had previously stayed at Auckland’s Four Points by Sheraton managed isolation facility in December.

Contact tracing was underway to have everyone staying at the hotel at the same time re-tested.

Meanwhile, as the vaccine campaign begins, Cabinet was due to decide this afternoon whether Auckland should have its alert level settings revised.

The decision is due at 3pm.

It’s been more than a week since the country’s largest city was placed in alert level 3 and the rest of the country, put at alert level 2 after a South Auckland mother and daughter tested positive for Covid-19.

While the infection toll grew among family members and a classmate and her family fell ill, the Government decided to reduce the alert settings nationally down a notch on midnight Wednesday.

The rest of the country returned to alert level 1 while Auckland came out of lockdown and returned to alert level 2.

In making today’s decision, ministers will be considering the advice on health risks from director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield alongside latest case numbers, contact tracing, geographical distribution of the infections and whether the outbreak can be connected to the border.

Ministers will also assess the economic and societal effects of an alert level change.

In advice to Cabinet on Wednesday on lifting Auckland out of its snap 72-hour lockdown, Bloomfield and his officials deemed the outbreak to be well-contained.

However, the source of the outbreak remains a mystery.



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