Public health director Caroline McElnay has admitted that health officials were “scratching their heads” at the latest Pullman Covid-19 case, after another former MIQ victim tested positive.
The Ministry of Health today confirmed a community Covid-19 case in Hamilton.
The person has been in isolation since January 30 and has returned three negative tests, the most recent of which was February 2.
He said the ministry is not advising people to cancel events. The Hamilton Waitangi Day event was canceled this morning, with the host referring to information obtained from “credible health sources” of new positive cases of Covid-19 in the community.
McElnay said this afternoon that everyone leaving Pullman must self-isolate for five days after they leave.
This case does this.
“We are looking at all options,” he said, when asked if people need to isolate themselves from a longer time.
“It’s something that’s being actively reviewed.”
He said it would be a “very reasonable precautionary measure”.
McElnay said the ministry was considering extending the quarantine period.
The man was at Pullman from January 16-30. The person is on the same floor with several recent positive cases.
When asked if there had been any crossover with another positive case recently from Pullman, he said he needed to check. Northland’s positive case recently left the facility on January 15.
McElnay said the ministry was still investigating how it spread.
“We haven’t ruled out any possibility …
“We are scratching our heads a little,” he said, responding to a question about the latest Pullman outbreak.
He said there was a strong system at the moment but said “I don’t know if it’s luck”.
He spoke about the New Zealand system, saying they were tried and tested.
Hamilton’s last individual test came back positive yesterday afternoon.
They just came back from abroad.
He doesn’t know whether the Covid-19 strain is a South African variant. Further tests are being carried out and the person is now in Jet Park.
The person lives with two other people, who are treated as close contacts. Both gave negative results.
Everyone wears masks in communal places in the house.
McElnay said there were no locations of interest at this stage.
He said the only people who needed to be tested were symptomatic people, as usual.
The Waikato DHB has expanded the number of testing stations.
At Pullman, he said investigations into the facility were continuing. McElnay said the Ministry had looked at the common area.
McElnay said there were 60 people left at Pullman. The guests leaving tomorrow is the last stage to leave.
There is an “in-depth overview” of all MIQ facilities in progress, but he cannot provide a timeline of when the results will be available.
McElnay “firmly believed” that this person did not come out while they were isolated.
“They’ve stayed home, they’ve never been anywhere else,” said McElnay.
He has a “high level of assurance” that this case can be resolved.
McElnay was unsure of the chain of transmission and said this person “could be a historic case” but they are running more tests.
The person is still asymptomatic.
McElnay said it was imperative that swabbing was carried out to the “highest standards”.
He said he had faith in the testing regime.
There are two other Covid-19 cases today – one at the border and one historic.
The Health Ministry this morning played down the seriousness of the situation, saying the risks to public health were low.
“People in and around Hamilton need not worry,” the ministry said in a statement this morning.
The new case is someone who lives at the Pullman Hotel and they have been in self-isolation since returning home on January 30.
Officials said the person returned three negative tests before they tested positive for Covid-19.
“This case reinforces the importance of self-isolation and the repeated testing strategy we have adopted around people leaving managed isolation at Pullman.”
The Health Ministry’s statement came after the Hamilton Waitangi Day event was canceled because, according to the host, “a credible health source” said there were new positive cases of Covid-19 in the community.
Initially, health officials would not confirm the case but Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate told Stuff that the Health Ministry was investigating a “possible low-risk case”.
“It’s understandable that people are worried. Everyone wants to keep this virus away,” he said.
“This is definitely not the time to panic or anything,” he said, adding that he had not been given reason to be worried at this stage.
Today’s new case is the fifth case of someone who has tested positive for Covid after they left managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins ordered an investigation into the hotel to find out why the virus is spreading.
He has not announced the results of the investigation.
Hipkins also ordered a “deep clean” of the hotel before any new people were allowed to isolate at the facility.