April airport case update

Media release

20 April 2021

Following interviews with the person who has today returned a positive test for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health believes there is a clear link to the border as the source of the infection.

The person who has tested positive for COVID-19 works as a cleaner at Auckland International Airport, cleaning planes that have flown internationally from countries where COVID-19 is widespread.

The person has been tested weekly for COVID-19 as part of routine surveillance testing. They were tested yesterday at their workplace as part of this, and that test came back as positive today. Their previous tests were all negative.

The person is currently isolating at home while they are being interviewed by health officials and following this they will be transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility. Five household contacts have been tested and have returned negative results. Close contacts from the person’s workplace are being identified, isolated, and tested.

So far, we have identified that the person has 16 close contacts. This number will likely change as further scoping of this person’s movements identifies other people they have been in close contact with.

Their work at Auckland Airport is their sole employment, and their role is non-public facing.

Additional pop up testing has been set up at Auckland Airport this afternoon – this is in addition to the testing site that is already running at the airport.

Locations of interest where people may have been at the same time as the case will be shared as they are available.

This case is a reminder that everyone in New Zealand should be using the NZ COVID Tracer app – if you have scanned in at a location with someone who has COVID-19 you will be sent a notification through the app which is the quickest and easiest way to protect your whanau.

So far, locations of interest identified are:

  • Westfield St Luke’s Food Court, Saturday 17 April 2021 12:15pm to 2:30pm
  • Bunnings New Lynn, Saturday 17 April 2021 2:30pm to 3:50pm
  • Movenpick Dominion Road, Saturday 17 April 2021 5:15pm to 7:20pm

People who were at these places are considered casual contacts, who should monitor their health and be aware of any symptoms of COVID-19. If anyone develops symptoms they should stay at home, contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and get a test.

The Ministry’s assessment, based on what we know so far, is that the risk to the public appears low.

The person has been fully vaccinated – they received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine early in the vaccination campaign – in February and March. We know the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective, but at 95% effectiveness a small number may not be protected. Breakthrough infections happen with all vaccines. This shows us how important it is that as many New Zealanders as possible take up the offer to receive the vaccine when they are offered it and are protected. The more people that are vaccinated, the more protected we will all be.

The PCR test from this case has been sent for whole genome sequencing – the Ministry expects to be able to provide an update on this result tomorrow. The results of the whole genome sequencing will help provide information on how the person became infected with COVID-19.

A final note of thanks to this person – they, like many others at our border, have worked in an environment during this pandemic that has exposed them to the virus that we have collectively worked so hard to keep out. This person has done the right things – they have been regularly tested at their workplace, and we know they have been using the NZ COVID Tracer app, with Bluetooth turned on. People working at our border deserve our thanks and appreciation, and our thoughts are with this person as they recover from their infection.

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