Covid-19: Northland community case’s close contacts return negative results

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There are four new border-related cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there is one other historical case and another previous case is under investigation.

There are 68 active cases in the country.

“There are encouraging signs in Northland so far, he says.

On Northland’s community case, Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins said all the close contacts from the case have returned negative test results.

In addition, 10,812 tests were conducted yesterday, Hipkins said.

“Each one of those tests is helping keep our community safe.”

None of the Northland case’s close contacts have required second tests yet.

Bloomfield said the Northland case is now considered as recovered. She is at home with her partner who is isolating.

Dr Bloomfield said 14 people who left the Pullman Hotel after the Northland case reported symptoms but 13 of them have returned negative test results and one is pending.

All staff from the Pullman have returned negative tests.

He said testing from those 353 people who left the Pullman Hotel after the Northland case may reveal “one or two” positive cases.

To date, 327 people have been confirmed as being at one of the locations of interest related to the Northland case at the same time and date.

Hipkins said Northland responded “incredibly positively” and although there was some anxiety, took the right actions.

“I think this is the system operating as we hope it might.”

Bloomfield said wait times at testing stations were being looked at.

“The team is going to look at what else we can do. We don’t think it’s acceptable people have to wait for hours,” he said.

He said that includes bathroom and water facilities and more queue management.

Covid-19 vaccines

On vaccines, Hipkins said Kiwis could have confidence once it was rolled out that it had been through the proper vetting processes.

Hipkins said the thorough process Medsafe has been through has not delayed the arrival of the vaccine at all.

Vaccinations are likely to be a year-long process, he said.

He also said when vaccines first arrive they won’t be available for the general public.

Hipkins said if we were carrying out 50,000 vaccinations a day it would take 200 days to vaccinate the whole population.

“That would be in a scenario where immunisation had been ramped up to a mass vaccination scale.”

“Having purchased four different types of vaccine means we will have a range of options available by mid-year.

However, “we can’t necessarily control what’s happening around the world,” he said.

Hipkins said the reality is countries with wider outbreaks are getting the vaccine first.

The government is preparing a public awareness and reassurance campaign regarding the vaccination.

“We will have a paid advertising campaign,” Hipkins said, “It’ll come out in advance of the vaccine roll-out.”

“We will be aiming to start rolling out the campaign before the vaccine is made available to the public.”

Dr Bloomfield said at least 70 percent of the population would have to be vaccinated for the campaign to be successful.

“But the higher the better.”

He said about 70 percent of people have said they would get the vaccine. About 20 percent were hesitant and 10 percent have said they wouldn’t get vaccinated, according to surveying.

Earlier Dr Bloomfield told Morning Report he was confident a vaccine would be here by the end of March. He said the country was still “on-track” to receive the Pfizer jab, despite rollout delays in the European Union.

If delays with Pfizer’s vaccine were to occur, Bloomfield said New Zealand had other vaccines to fall back on.

Trans-Tasman travel bubble

Hipkins said there have been no updates about whether one-way New Zealand flights to Australia will resume after it was put on ice because of the Northland community case.

He said that’s a decision for Australia.

“We continue to have those conversations with them.”

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