N.Z. announces fifth coronavirus case in a week

By James Robertson 20 June 2020, 2:49PM

After a three-week streak with no new cases of the coronavirus, New Zealand officials today announced the country's fifth new case of the virus detected this week. 

The latest two patients to be diagnosed with the virus are a couple in their 20s who had arrived on a repatriation flight from India earlier this month, the country’s health chief, Ashley Bloomfield, told reporters in Wellington on Wednesday. 

The couple arrived on Air India flight on 5 June and apparently displayed no symptoms of the illness which was detected through routine testing.

The couple has been moved from their quarantine facility to the Jet Park Hotel. Dr. Bloomfield said Health Department workers would be retracing their steps at their first hotel.

The couple also has a young child who is yet to be tested. 

Dr. Bloomfield said New Zealand's relative lack of coronavirus cases meant that they were liable to receive more scrutiny but he was confident in the integrity of the procedures followed by the couple.

An increasing number of repatriation flights to New Zealand will unavoidably lead to greater detections, Dr. Bloomfield said. 

"This explains why we are now detecting these cases at the border," he said.

The news was met with stern questioning from journalists who said that members of the public had provided proof that patients who were meant to be in isolation were not adhering to social distancing requirements in quarantine facilities. 

Dr. Bloomfield said that social media photographs showing fleeting interactions between patients in quarantine and regular hotel guests was no evidence of a risk of transmission.

But the New Zealand health chief acknowledged that there was an evident shortfall in New Zealand’s quarantine facilities, by undertaking to audit the management of hotel facilities the Government is using for quarantine purposes. 

“We’re planning to audit all those procedures to make sure that they are rock solid,” Director General of New Zealand Health, Ashley Bloomfield said. 

“All these people are being tested and no one is going out into the community.”

On Thursday a Pakistani man was placed in quarantine after testing positive to COVID-19.

And earlier this week New Zealand admitted to a lapse in processes after two sisters arriving in the country from England were granted day leave from quarantine to attend their grandmother’s funeral.

About 364 people were found to have come into contact with the women; 90 per cent of whom have been contacted health authorities said. 

Most of the tests have been completed and all that have have been returned as negative. 

“There was a lapse in the process for us introducing the routine day three and day 12 testing in the latter part of last week and I know that the case of these two women will have upset people and shaken people's confidence,” Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said at the time. 

Dr. Bloomfield said that a total of 55 people had been given exemptions from quarantine for compassionate reasons, all bar one - a child awaiting parental consent - who had returned negative tests.

All incoming passengers must undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine. They are tested on day two and about day 12 of isolation, Dr. Bloomfield said. 

By James Robertson 20 June 2020, 2:49PM

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