News Coronavirus NZ virus cluster grows – and spreads beyond Auckland

NZ virus cluster grows – and spreads beyond Auckland

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New Zealand’s COVID outbreak has grown to 30, with more cool store workers and two people in a town 200 kilometres from Auckland all confirmed with the virus.

Americold’s managing director Richard Winnall said two more workers at Auckland’s Mount Wellington plant had tested positive.

Six workers at the cold storage facility have now tested positive to the virus.

A staff member at a medical centre in the Waikato town of Tokoroa, more than 200 kilometres south of Auckland, is another confirmed case. There is a second case in the town, and an additional probable infection.

One of the centre’s staff is reportedly linked to the Auckland outbreak.

An Americold worker aged in his 50s is part of a family of four who all tested positive to the virus earlier this week, ending New Zealand’s run of more than 100 days without community transmission.

Mr Winnall also said New Zealand authorities had not yet conducted swab tests at the Americold warehouse in Auckland. That was expected on Friday.

Health authorities have said they will swab the site to rule out freight as a possible source of the outbreak.

nz coronavirus lockdown
Jacinda Ardern with Ashley Bloomfield (left). Photo: Getty

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said 12 more confirmed cases and one probable one had been identified on Friday. The additional cases bring the cluster that started with a South Auckland family to 30.

All of the 13 new cases bar one have already been linked to existing cases and to that [Auckland] cluster,” he said.

“For the 13th case – and that person is currently in hospital – the link is still under investigation. It is the most recent case we have been informed of.”

New Zealand has 48 active coronavirus cases – all of the others are returned travellers in mandatory quarantine.

A meeting of the NZ cabinet is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Extending Auckland’s COVID-19 lockdown and possibly delaying the looming national election will be top of the agenda.

Ms Ardern has warned case numbers will get worse before they get better, foreshadowing the extension of the lockdown and level two restrictions in the rest of New Zealand.

Her original order expires at midnight on Friday.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins told media outlets the government was not considering toughening Auckland’s restrictions to the severe level four endured nationwide during the autumn lockdown.

The government will also have to answer to reports that suggested two-thirds of border and isolation staff had not been tested for the virus until this week’s outbreak.

Like Australia, NZ asks all international arrivals to isolate within a government-run quarantine system for a fortnight.

The border regime is considered New Zealand’s front line of defence against the virus.

Thousands of people – including many in the south Auckland suburbs surrounding the airport where the outbreak was first identified – are employed within it.

At Friday’s crunch meeting, cabinet will also discuss the possibility of finding a new date for the national election, set for September 19.

Ms Ardern delayed Wednesday’s planned dissolution of Parliament to next Monday to buy herself some time to make the call.

Kiwis are due to start voting in just three weeks.

-more to come

-with AAP