4 new cases of COVID-19 20 September

There are four new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today; two community cases and two cases in managed isolation.

The two community cases are household contacts of the case reported yesterday, which is not connected to the Auckland cluster. The case reported yesterday is a recent returnee who arrived in New Zealand from India on August 27 and completed managed isolation, returning two negative tests at the facility in Christchurch before returning home to Auckland on September 11.

The case reported yesterday was tested after developing symptoms on September 16, and returned a positive result. He and his household contacts self-isolated when he developed symptoms. They were all moved into the Auckland quarantine facility on September 18, when the first case returned a positive result.

All identified close contacts have been isolated and tested.

The source of the case’s infection is still under investigation, but genome sequencing is consistent with two confirmed cases from the same flight from India to New Zealand that landed on August 27.

It is possible that this case was infected during that flight and has had an extremely long incubation period – there is evidence that in rare instances the incubation period can be up to 24 days. This person developed symptoms 21 days after he arrived in New Zealand. If this is the case, it sits well outside the standard incubation period of the virus.

The vast majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 will become unwell within 14 days. Having returnees stay in managed isolation for 14 days remains the gold standard, and this is also the approach adopted by other countries. Our own modelling confirms that 14 days spent in managed isolation with two tests leaves a very low risk that someone will leave managed isolation with COVID-19.

Another possible scenario is that the case may have been infected during the flight from Christchurch to Auckland – other passengers from that flight are currently being contacted and assessed as a precautionary measure in order to exclude them as the source of infection.

This case is another example of the tricky nature of the virus, and a reminder that anyone who has been through a managed isolation facility should remain very aware of their health. Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested and self-isolate while awaiting results as these people did.

The first imported case reported today is a man in his 30s who arrived from London via Dubai on September 16. He tested positive at routine testing around day 3 of his stay in managed isolation at the Novotel Ellerslie, and is being transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility today.

The second imported case reported today is a man in his 20s who arrived from India via Singapore on September 12. He returned a negative test for COVID-19 around day 3 of his stay in managed isolation at the Grand Millennium. The man was moved to the Auckland quarantine facility as a close contact of a confirmed case, retested, and has returned a positive result.

There are 47 people isolating in the Auckland quarantine facility from the community, which includes 20 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their household contacts.

Three people are in hospital with COVID-19 – one each at Auckland City, Middlemore and North Shore hospitals. All three patients are in isolation on a general ward.

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