Two new COVID-19 cases in Christchurch

Ben McKay
·2-min read

New Zealanders face a tense few days as they wait to learn whether the country's COVID-19 regime will keep two community cases from developing into another outbreak.

Health authorities alerted Kiwis to a fresh case of coronavirus in the community on Monday night, a health worker at the Sudima Hotel, a managed isolation (MIQ) facility in Christchurch.

On Tuesday night, a second community case was reported from the same location.

The hotel is being used to house international arrivals to New Zealand who test positive to the deadly virus.

The two cases are the first to be trasnmitted in the community on South Island for months.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the swift pick-up of the infection "is a sign of the system working".

"Our system is built for these kind of occurrences. MIQ workers are in contact with people with COVID. They are very aware of their circumstances ... and behave really responsibly," she told Radio NZ.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said he would categorise the risk of community onset as low.

"It's a message of reassurance ... there is no sense that any horse has bolted here," he said.

It is unclear whether one worker infected the other, or they both picked up the virus from the hotel.

Since eliminating the virus in June, New Zealand has had one major outbreak, infecting 179 people and killing three.

It has also flirted with new outbreaks, including the infection of a nurse, another MIQ worker and a port worker.

In one of those cases, an elevator button is thought to have been the transmission source.

Dozens of infected fishers are quarantining at the Sudima Hotel after flying in with the virus ahead of deep sea fishing work.

Both workers tested negative on Thursday as part of standard testing procedures.

The first woman to test positive developed symptoms on Saturday, got tested on Sunday and returned a positive on Monday.

Between infection and the positive test, she visited a supermarket which has been deep cleaned.

Their one household close contact, a Cashmere High School student, has tested negative and is isolating at home.

The school will stay open, while students and staff have been told to be vigilant for symptoms.

New Zealand's COVID-19 death toll stands at 25.