New Zealand’s capital has reintroduced level two virus restrictions after an Australian infected with COVID-19 made use of the trans-Tasman travel bubble.
On Wednesday morning, health authorities revealed a Sydney traveller who spent a weekend in Wellington had tested positive for the virus on their return to NSW.
In response, the NZ Cabinet held an emergency meeting on Wednesday – deciding against a lockdown, but to increase safety measures.
“At the moment we do know that we’ve had a positive case and that person had some extensive potential exposure in the Wellington region,” COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said.
The level two restrictions involve mask-wearing in public settings, gathering caps and the encouragement of working from home.
No locally transmitted infections have yet been detected in New Zealand as a result of the visitor, but any new cases would snap a streak of more than 100 days without community transmission.
The man travelled to NZ last weekend, leaving Sydney on Friday night and heading back on Monday on the following flights:
- Qantas QF163, departing Sydney at 7.05pm on Friday June 18 for Wellington
- Air New Zealand NZ247, departing Wellington at 10.13am on Monday June 21 for Sydney
The most likely scenario – based on testing and the person’s symptoms – is that he caught the virus in Australia and travelled to NZ while contagious.
Four close contacts in NZ have already been identified: Two people from Palmerston North and two from Taurangaall, all of whom are isolating.
“I expect they were friends that the people were visiting or they spent time with here,” Dr Bloomfield said.
Genomic testing will show whether the case is linked to the current Bondi outbreak, which has also lead to increased virus restrictions across Greater Sydney.
“We don’t know which variant it is. We’ll get information as quickly as possible from our Australian colleagues what the genomic sequencing is,” he said.
“The key thing here is, whatever the variant, the response is the same.”
- See all of NSW’s exposure sites here
As of 11am AEST on Wednesday, 15 locations of interest in Wellington had been identified, including national museum Te Papa, Jack Hackett’s Irish Pub, and several cafes or restaurants.
Te Papa was closed on Wednesday in response to the news.
- A full list of NZ exposure sites can be found here.
Anyone who visited these locations at the same time as the Australian traveller has been asked to isolate and get tested.
The imported case is likely to heap pressure on the government’s response to the NSW cases.
A coronavirus cluster that began in Sydney’s east last week hit 37 locally transmitted cases on Wednesday.
NZ officials made the decision to close the trans-Tasman bubble on Tuesday night, in response to the so-called Bondi outbreak.