COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) update, 5 March

News article

05 March 2020

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield gives an update on the response to COVID-19, joined by Katrina Casey, the Deputy Secretary for Sector Enablement and Support at the Ministry of Education.

Update summary

Dr Bloomfield has told media there is a third confirmed case of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

Dr Bloomfield says the case confirmed today is a man in his 40s from Auckland, whose family members recently returned from Iran. The case himself did not travel to Iran.

He explained that this third case of COVID-19 is classified as a case of family transmission. There is what appears to be a clear link with travel to Iran by a close family member. Our view remains that with continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak remains low.

The man confirmed with COVID-19 is in self-isolation at home with appropriate clinical support from public health and district health board staff. Self-isolation at home is an appropriate response for people with mild to moderate symptoms and is recognised by the World Health Organization. He doesn’t require hospital level care and neither does anyone else in the home.

Three other members of the man’s family had previously been unwell, none seriously. They have now fully recovered and are with him in self-isolation.

Dr Bloomfield stressed that this is a precautionary measure. No one else in the family is displaying symptoms presently and no one else is currently being tested.

Dr Bloomfield said public health officials last night began tracing the other close and casual contacts of the three family members who had been unwell, to ensure appropriate protection measures are in place.

That includes the flight on which two family members recently arrived in New Zealand from Iran. Those flight details are:

  • Qatar QR0920 Doha to Auckland, departed 22 February, arrived Auckland 23 February.

Dr Bloomfield highlighted the media interest in naming medical centres involved with positive cases. At this time the centres will not be identified. We do not want the public to be concerned about visiting their general practices for routine visits.

If you visited one of the centres and are considered to be at risk, you will be contacted by public health officers. They will determine if there is any risk to staff or other people who may have been at the centre at that time. Appropriate contact tracing and action will be taken as required.

Dr Bloomfield updated the media on the quarantine at Whangaparāoa Reception Centre – it has now been lifted. All six New Zealanders repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have undergone their final health checks; they are all well and have left the centre.

Dr Bloomfield also thanked those six New Zealanders.

He has also talked about harmful comments being made on social media, especially around the family from the second case and says these kinds of comments are counter-productive to New Zealand's response to COVID-19.

Dr Bloomfield explained the evidence from a World Health Organisation Joint Mission to China that, in China, human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus is largely occurring in families and that transmission in children is low. See the Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (PDF, 1.5 MB).

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