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Covid 19 coronavirus: Three new community cases detected


Politics

Two siblings of the schoolgirl who tested positive yesterday were last night also confirmed as Covid-19 cases.

One is a recent school-leaver who works at Kmart Botany which is now a location of interest. Thirty-one staff are considered close contacts and need to isolate and get tested.

Anyone who was at the store on February 19 and 20 between 3.30pm and 10.30pm is considered a “casual plus” contact and must stay home and get tested today.

And every one of the 1500 students or 150 staff at Papatoetoe High School is being told to isolate and get re-tested despite the initial case not attending school yesterday.

Anyone who lives with a student or teacher must isolate until their family member tests negative.

The third positive case in that household is an infant and was not taken to any early childhood care.

It’s understood officials were last night working to establish whether the cluster was still considered contained. Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will hold a press conference at 1pm.

The Papatoetoe High School student tested positive for Covid yesterday morning after developing muscle aches and a loss of smell.

It was the first time the schoolgirl had been tested despite a “get tested” order more than a week after her fellow student was confirmed as a case among the Valentine’s Day cluster.

There were numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact the student and her family since last Monday.

Students and staff from Papatoetoe High School are having to be re-tested after a student tested positive. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Students and staff from Papatoetoe High School are having to be re-tested after a student tested positive. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Household contacts of students and staff were not asked to isolate last week so the five other people in the family of the latest case were free to go about their normal lives.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there were 10 other outstanding “casual plus” contacts at the high school who posed a risk and were being followed up.

Contact tracers were sometimes making more than a dozen phone calls, texts and emails, checking with GPs to double-check contact details and had to employ interpreters where there were language barriers, he said.

Teams would now be deployed to knock on doors of those who hadn’t yet been tested.

“It’s not for anyone to pass judgment on what other people are doing,” Bloomfield said when asked why the student hadn’t been tested already.

There had been really high levels of support and co-operation and the fact the student didn’t go back to school and got a test showed there was a level of understanding, he said.

To avoid a witch hunt on social media, Hipkins asked New Zealanders to “demonstrate a little bit of kindness” while the case investigation was ongoing.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said they don't know why it took so long for the student to get tested. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said they don’t know why it took so long for the student to get tested. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“The last thing we want is people reluctant to come forward and be tested or come forward with the information we need for the case investigations because they don’t want to subject themselves to [the social media reaction].”

National’s Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop said it was concerning the latest case hadn’t been tested sooner and urged the Government to move more expeditiously.

He said contact tracers should be going out and knocking on doors if they couldn’t get hold of someone.

“Speed is of the essence here … it is worrying it’s taken a week to find this person.”

The Government also came under fire in February when it took more than 10 days to contact all the 353 returnees from the Pullman after a fellow guest tested positive after leaving managed isolation.

At the time the Prime Minister said the Health Ministry needed to look at the reasons behind the “lag” in contact tracing.

Hipkins said even if yesterday’s case was uncovered before Cabinet’s alert level decision on Monday, it would not have been enough to prevent a move to level 1 because the perimeter of the outbreak was still well contained.

Experts also said the situation was low risk but warned it was possible the current cluster could keep bubbling away for days, or even weeks, given the virus’ long incubation period.

Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker was optimistic.

“This [latest case] was someone they were intending to check out anyway, and they just missed them,” he said.

“It shows the system is working – and how hard it is to track down every last contact, when you have over 1000 of them.”



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