Authorities said on Monday that the first locally infected person in New Zealand in more than two months had a South African type of coronavirus, and it is possible that transmission occurred during quarantine.
On Saturday, a 56-year-old woman who recently returned from Europe tested positive for Covid-19. It was isolated for two weeks for ten days, which means it is the first “locally infected” since mid-November. Additionally, you will be affected by the South African variant, 50% more lethal than the original breed.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Monday that “the strain of infection is the South African variant and the source of the infection is most likely someone else who has returned” from abroad. She was allegedly infected with the infection during quarantine by someone who was on the same floor as she lives and had tested positive two days before this woman finished quarantine. Authorities are investigating whether the virus has spread through the center’s ventilation and air conditioning systems in Auckland.
After being released from quarantine, the woman returned to her home in Northland, at the northern tip of the country, and developed symptoms of Covid-19 for several days before testing positive. Fifteen people have been contacted, who have been identified as contact cases. Her husband and her hairdresser, with whom she was in close contact, took the tests, which were negative.
The health director, Ashley Bloomfield, was relieved that if they did not become infected, it was likely due to the kind of symptoms the woman was showing. He said: “You didn’t talk about respiratory symptoms, it was more muscle pain, so maybe you didn’t spread the virus much.”
Australia is taking action
For his part, the Australian Minister of Health, Greg Hunt, expressed his “grave concern” and his government announced a suspension of the ruling for at least three days allowing the exemption of New Zealanders arriving in Australia from quarantine, with immediate effect. “We choose to be very careful while we wait to discover more,” he told reporters in Canberra. Air New Zealand estimates this affects five scheduled flights as of today. New Zealanders who are unable to reschedule their flight will need to stay in a hotel for at least 72 hours and possibly up to 14 days depending on test results.
Likewise, Australian authorities have required people from New Zealand since January 14 to undergo testing and self-isolate pending a negative test result.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke late in the afternoon with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison. “I told her that we have confidence in our systems and processes, but Australia’s decision is how to manage its borders,” she admitted on TVNZ.
New Zealand’s record in fighting Covid-19 has been welcomed abroad, with the total number of infections in the archipelago less than 2,000 and 25 deaths since the start of the pandemic.