The three members of the Auckland family who contracted Covid-19 have the UK variant, Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.
The results of the genome sequencing mean the Government was right to move Auckland to Alert Level 3, and the rest of the country to Alert Level 2 last night, the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister also revealed this morning on Breakfast that the cases have not been traced back to MIQ facilities.
“Now that leads us to follow some alternate lines of inquiry,” she said.
“For instance, a transit passenger who has come in on an international flight perhaps and then gone on to another destination could be a possible link to this case,” Ardern said.New Zealand wakes up to new Covid-19 alert level restrictions
The workplace of the woman, where the laundry of international aircrew was done, would also be investigated.
“Keeping in mind that one of the workplaces in question is the place where they do the laundry, the other possibility is international airline crew [who] have their uniforms washed and cleaned at the laundry where the individual in question who has become infected works.
“Those are some of the possibilities we need to explore,” she said.
Ardern said changing alert levels was not dependent on establishing a link to the cases.
“What we would like to do is really put a ring around things, making sure we’re testing all those places of interest, getting those results of close contacts back in,” she said.
“[That will] give us a level of confidence that whatever has happened, we’ve got a ring around it.”
Auckland will remain at Alert Level 3 until 11.59pm on Wednesday, with Ardern saying a potential move down an alert level would be reviewed every 24 hours.
“At that stage we will assess whether we have enough information to move,” she said.
“You’ll see from the list of things we want to get through, some of the testing we want to get through that the idea that we’d move today is unlikely, of course.
“I’ll check in again this afternoon, share an update on where we’re at with some of that testing.”UK Covid-19 variant 30-70% more deadly than original strain, British scientists warn
Ardern said she had seen varying information on whether the UK variant was more deadly but it was “certainly cause for enough concern for us yesterday to make this decision on the basis that it may have been the variant and it is”.
“Nothing that we have seen today will change the settings we currently have.
“If there’s anything that emerges that gives us concern around the rest of New Zealand, we’ll act on that.”New South Auckland Covid-19 cases: Locations of interest
Sewage testing in South Auckland had last been conducted on February 10 and there were no indications of Covid-19.
“It suggests that whatever we have, it’s contained. We want more evidence of that to give us some confidence.”
Genome sequencing results will be investigated to see if there was a match, Ardern said.
There is a third, less likely, scenario where genome sequencing was not completed for all cases in New Zealand, though this was generally because the cases were historic.
“We can have some level of confidence that this isn’t related to our managed isolation facilities based on these results.”
The work to find the source of the cases is already underway, with authorities contacting international airlines last night “to see if they have results from any of their air crew which could be a match”.
“Equally, we’re reaching out to our overseas counterparts that do sequence passengers who disembark and go into isolation at other destinations, so for instance in Australia to see if we can find a match there.”
Taranaki and New Plymouth
The Prime Minister said she is happy to keep Taranaki at Alert Level 2 after two of the cases travelled to New Plymouth over Waitangi weekend before they were symptomatic.
The cases had travelled to New Plymouth with two other people, both of whom have tested negative for the virus while in managed isolation.Full list of places of interest: New Plymouth and South Auckland
“At this stage, those negative results are helpful for us,” she said.
Ardern said establishing that the source of the outbreak was Auckland, like they had in previous outbreaks following the first wave, was key in the decision to keep Taranaki at Alert Level 2.
“There is nothing at this stage to suggest that we need to have New Plymouth at a higher alert level.”
“Last time we had a level of confidence that the origin of the outbreak was Auckland, even if someone had travelled outside of Auckland, it’s a similar position this time.”
People should double check whether they were at places of interest in New Plymouth and follow health advice if they were.