As New Zealand scrambles to trace the source of its first coronavirus outbreak in more than three months, reporting 13 new community infections on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said that he suspects the cause of the new infections came from quarantine, and that confirmation should come soon.
“I think there’s been a breach inside our quarantine system, and I think, when that comes out very shortly, in a matter of maybe less than a day, we’ll find out that was the case,” Peters told the ABC.
Peters said he had been informed of the details by a New Zealand journalist.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said health officials were getting “closer every hour” to finding the patient zero of the outbreak.
Bloomfield had raised the possibility earlier on Wednesday that the virus had arrived in New Zealand via freight, given one of the initially infected family members works in a cool store that takes imported frozen goods from overseas.
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Ten of the new cases were either cool store staff or their family members. The cool store is operated by the New Zealand unit of US-based Americold Realty Trust.
On Thursday, Bloomfield said that importing the virus via freight was considered “a low possibility” as the infection source, but officials wanted to formally rule it out. China has reported the virus on frozen food packaged in South America.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a positive sign that all 13 new community cases were linked back to one infected family, either via work or broader family connections, and that all were being transferred into quarantine facilities.