New case but no alert level change for NZ

Ben McKay
·2-min read

The New Zealand government is not raising COVID-19 alert levels in Auckland after linking a new community case to a string of other infections.

However, it plans to reinstate mask-wearing rules on public transport in the country's biggest city and for flying nationwide after flirting with another community outbreak.

On Friday, COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins announced whole genome sequencing from the latest community case matched with a border worker who tested positive last week.

Based on interviews with the pair, it is not believed they have met, though they frequented similar parts of Auckland's CBD.

"That direct link means the new case doesn't point to an unknown border incursion that could be spreading and it also means broader unseen spread is less likely," Mr Hipkins said.

Auckland CBD workers were asked to stay home on Friday while health authorities contact traced the new case, a female retail worker.

Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay said all three of the woman's close contacts returned negative tests.

Authorities are now ordering a testing blitz, asking Aucklanders who visited the same places as the woman to get tested.

On Monday, the new mask-wearing edict will be ratified by cabinet, along with rules asking New Zealanders to track their movements with its "COVID Tracer" app.

"These recent events have highlighted just how important all of our ongoing vigilance is, as COVID-19 continues to rage around the globe, if we're to continue to enjoy the very fortunate position we find ourselves and here in New Zealand," Mr Hipkins said.

According to the New Zealand Herald, there have seven instances of the virus escaping New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine regime in the past three months.

These lapses threaten New Zealand's COVID-19 elimination strategy but Mr Hipkins denied the government was riding its luck.

"It's a virus. We all need to be vigilant. There will be good luck and bad luck," he said.