Watch live: Five new cases of Covid-19 in community linked to Auckland cluster

This story by RNZ is republished with permission

There are five new confirmed cases of Covid-19 today, all relating to the existing Auckland cluster.

Watch the media conference starting about 1pm here:

Four of the new cases are in Auckland, while one is a Tokoroa and receiving care at Waikato Hospital.

Six people in total are receiving hospital-level care – one is in Auckland City Hospital, four are in Middlemore and one in Waikato, and one person is in Middlemore in a stable condition at the intensive care unit.

Dr Bloomfield said 133 people linked to the cluster have been moved to the Auckland quarantine facilities and that includes 65 people who have tested positive.

The new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases to 1304. The number of active cases is 101.

Dr Bloomfield said of the 80 cases in Auckland, 78 are linked to the cluster with two under investigation – one being the Rydges Hotel maintenance worker and one being a case announced yesterday that was thought to be linked to the cluster but has been reclassified as under investigation because no clear link has been established to the cluster yet.

That person whose case was reclassified today was at St Lukes Mall on the morning of 12 August.

Anyone visiting St Lukes at that time should be alert to symptoms and contact health professionals if feeling sick, Dr Bloomfield said.

Dr Bloomfield said a new “strong line of investigation” was being looked at after it was discovered the maintenance worker used the same lift as the woman he is believed to have contracted the virus from, shortly after she had been there.

The nurses who attended the hotel have all returned negative tests so it was unlikely to have been a link, Dr Bloomfield said.

Dr Bloomfield said 1996 close contacts were being followed up by the national contact tracing service, 1921 of those had been contacted by 10am today, the rest is a work in progress.

He reminded people with symptoms to get tested and for those without symptoms not to clog the testing system.

No virus has been found on any of the swabs taken from the Americold Wiri site. ESR did find very low levels of the virus on four of the 35 gauze swabs taken at the Mt Wellington site.

Dr Bloomfield said the positive swabs were from surfaces expected to be touched by a person with the virus.

The initial sampling showed that additional work at Americold is not currently warranted and it appears that contamination of imported chilled packaging was not a likely source of infection at this point and therefore the investigation into finding the source remains open, Dr Bloomfield said.

There are now 1,626,500 registered users of the NZ Covid Tracer app and 112,616 businesses now have their QR codes on display.

Yesterday, 18,091 tests were processed – bringing total in most recent surge to 154,000 and total since the start of pandemic to more than 657,000.

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins said 370 of the most “at risk” staff in Auckland Airport face returning crew and passengers have all been tested – and 99 percent of staff working for MPI, Customs and Immigration.

There are nine staff at isolation facilities in Auckland who are yet to be tested.

Hipkins said 7800 applications for exemptions to enter or leave Auckland have been received, more than 1000 have been granted and about 100 have been declined.

“There are positive signs that are systems are performing as intended, contact tracing is also well,” Hipkins said.

Based on the testing, the government has a strong indication that there is not any unseen transmission outside of Auckland, he said.

Hipkins says Cabinet will be considering a range of factors tomorrow when reviewing current restrictions.

“We’ll be looking at the latest information on the cluster, what we know about the cluster and the contact tracing around the cluster, and the test rules from the surge of testing … we’d be looking at any cases that aren’t connected … we’d be looking at whether any new cases are within the existing contacts.”

Another key piece of information Cabinet may consider would be the testing outside of Auckland to detect any further spread, Dr Bloomfield said.

“The other piece of information we have to report to Cabinet is are we confident in our lab capacity and contact tracing capacity, and both of those are in good shape.”

Yesterday there were six new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, five of them in the community.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Developments this morning

The National Party announced its policy on establishing a Border Protection Agency to oversee and manage Covid-19 and any other public health threats at the border.

Leader Judith Collins said the current Covid-19 border approach was set up in an ad-hoc way and heightened border management will be required.

Meanwhile, public health experts say the government wasted the 100 days New Zealand was free of community transmission. They urge the government to launch an inquiry into its response to the Covid-19 pandemic as soon as the Auckland outbreak is under control.

US President Donald Trump has again called New Zealand’s coronavirus cluster a “big outbreak” after saying two days ago it was “a big surge” and “terrible”.

At a White House media conference today, he said: “New Zealand, by the way, had a big outbreak – and other countries that were held up to try and make us look not as good as we should look because we’ve done an incredible job. They’re having a lot of outbreaks but they’ve been able to put them out and we’ll put them out.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday she couldn’t see any real comparison with America’s tens of thousands of daily cases.

More to come…

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