New COVID-19 case in Auckland CBD

Ben McKay
·3-min read

Aucklanders are being urged not to panic after New Zealand health authorities announced a new case of COVID-19 in the community without a link to the country's border regime.

CBD workers in New Zealand's biggest city have been asked to stay home on Friday, in order to buy time for a frantic contact tracing investigation.

The positive case, of a female retail worker and student, is the first which cannot be drawn to the country's managed isolation (MIQ) facilities since August, when a new cluster formed and infected 179 people, killing three.

COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said it was too soon to suggest the infected person would trigger an outbreak.

"Panic never helps with COVID-19. We're still in the very early stages of this case investigation," he said.

"The information that we have suggests that this could still be quite contained."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern relocated to Wellington on Thursday afternoon in anticipation of a government decision on alert levels.

That could include a call on whether to return Auckland to lockdown, as occurred for 16 days in August.

Mr Hipkins said the government wanted more time before making a call, instead opting to ask CBD workers to stay home.

"Those who can't, please use masks and of course redouble your efforts around social distancing and around hygiene. Anyone using public transport in Auckland, or flying in and out of Auckland should be using a mask," he said.

The newly infected woman is a student at Auckland University of Technology, who resides in the Auckland CBD, and works at a retail store, A-Z Collections

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the woman "lives alone and appears to have had limited community outings recently".

After developing symptoms, the woman was tested on Tuesday afternoon and asked to isolate - only to go to work after attempting to call in sick.

Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay implied her manager coerced her to go.

"This case called in sick to work after receiving the advice to isolate, but after a conversation with their manager, went to work, and wore a mask," she said.

Mr Hipkins said that was disappointing and bosses should "please be good employers".

"Respect that when staff run in sick, you should go out of your way to make sure that they can stay home and stay safe and protect others at the same time," he said.

The woman has been moved to Auckland's quarantine facility, the Jet Park Hotel, while her workplace and residential building is deep cleaned.

"We do understand that when these cases pop up they can cause considerable anxiety," Mr Hipkins said.

"But we have a plan. We're currently rolling out their plan, we have shown in the past that works, and that we can stop the virus, as we've done before."

New Zealand also recorded a second community case on Thursday in Wellington, an already-isolating close contact of a defence force worker with links to a quarantine facility.