COVID-19 - Eight new cases linked to overseas travel

Media release

18 March 2020

New Zealand has eight new cases of COVID-19, all overseas travel related.

There are four new cases in Auckland, one in Christchurch, two in Waikato and one in Invercargill.

This brings our total to 20 confirmed cases in NZ.  Details for each of these cases, including flight information where applicable, will be on the Ministry of Health website later today.

We have expected more cases and we continue to identify, test and isolate to ensure we can keep out COVID-19, stamp it out and slow it down.

The clear link back to recent overseas travel for these eight cases reinforces the border restrictions brought in last weekend.  

‘These restrictions are not retrospective but I urge others who have arrived earlier may wish to voluntarily self-isolate and anyone who has been overseas recently and is feeling unwell should self-isolate and should contact Healthline or phone ahead to their GP,’ Dr Bloomfield says.

Contact tracing on flights covers the two seats in all directions: front, back, both sides and diagonal.  This is supported by current evidence and is in line with the approach taken by European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Healthline will be provided with the seat numbers and will soon be able to advise anyone on the flight, whether they are considered a close contact.  Close contacts will be required to undertake 14 days of self-isolation.

We want to find cases so we can trace and isolate close contacts and prevent community spread.

School closure in Dunedin

The High School linked to the 12th positive case - Logan Park High school is working with both Education staff and public health officials.   

The school was initially closed for 48 hours while close contacts are traced and put in self isolation and monitored by health officials daily.  

There are around 150 close contacts identified.

After discussion with the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, the Ministry’s own Chief Science Advisor and the local Medical Officer of Health, and because this is the first positive case in a school, we will be testing these close contacts.  

This is a unique situation and this approach is part of our precautionary response taken to COVID-19.

The school will be carefully cleaned before reopening. 

The school will not open until cleared to do so by health officials, which will not be until next week. 

All close contacts will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days and will be watched carefully for symptoms over the next fortnight.

These steps will help limit the chances of further cases. 

Police undertake self-isolation compliance visits

Police has conducted compliance visits on a random sample group of travellers who arrived into New Zealand after the new self-isolation requirements came into effect on Monday 16 March. 

The Ministry of Health requested Police to conduct the visits to check on the compliance and welfare of approximately 50 individuals throughout the country.  The visits, which commenced yesterday, involved Police visually sighting the individuals and asking a series of questions relating to their wellbeing while self-isolating.

Police has made contact with 41 individuals with another three people requiring a follow up today when they could not be reached. Outstanding visits are scheduled to be completed today with more visits to be conducted. It is very pleasing to see the high level of compliance with most people taking the isolation requirement seriously.

Staff have been provided with advice about how to keep themselves safe while conducting these visits.  This includes maintaining a safe distance and carrying out standard risk assessment for each visit. 

Influenza vaccination

Announced today was the early start of the influenza campaign and an increased number of vaccines – 400,000 more than last year.  This is to particularly protect our priority groups of people aged 65 and over, people who are pregnant, people with certain chronic conditions, and young children with a history of severe respiratory illness.

As the Minister said this morning: It’s critical that we do all we can to prevent a bad flu season as the flu causes significant strain on our health system and more people vaccinating against flu will ensure health services are there for those who need them most.

We know the flu vaccine does not protect you against COVID-19 but it will help to manage the demand on our hospitals this winter.

We are also prioritising healthcare workers and other frontline workers that are critical to our COVID-19 response.

People not in the priority groups are expected to wait till 13 April before getting their vaccinations.

Media contact

Peter Abernethy 021 366 111

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