New Zealanders are holding their breath as they wait to learn if a newly identified case of COVID-19 will prompt fresh restrictions and lockdowns.
The best hope of avoiding more restrictions on daily life is the infected woman’s “extremely assiduous” personal-contact tracing, which officials hope has made it possible to stop the disease spreading any further.
Health officials announced on Sunday that they had identified the first case of the deadly virus in the community since November.
What is particularly worrying is that the woman spent two weeks in hotel quarantine and recorded two negative test results before being released into the community.
Then came the 56-year-old Northland woman’s positive test result after reported muscle aches to health workers in follow-up interviews.
Contact tracers said she had travelled in Spain and the Netherlands before flying out of London, arriving in Auckland around the turn of the year.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said it was too early to order a further lockdown without evidence the woman had transmitted the disease to anyone else.
Dr Bloomfield said the “extremely compliant” woman is quarantining at home.
just walked into a coffeeshop here in aotearoa new zealand and scanned in with covid tracer app and everybody behind the counter erupted in spontaneous applause
— Andy Baird (@andy_engineer) January 24, 2021
Four close contacts have been identified and while none are symptomatic, each has been ordered to take tests – along with their own close contacts.
COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins praised the woman for using the government’s contact tracing app as she visited Northland, Whangarei, Helensville and Dargaville.
“This woman concerned has been scrupulous in keeping a good record of her movements, scanning the QR codes wherever she has gone,” Mr Hipkins said.
“That’s laid a very good foundation for our contact tracing team … I want to acknowledge that.”
Dr Bloomfield said the woman and her partner “weren’t meeting with friends or attending mass gatherings” as they had been enjoying each other’s company after four month apart.
Through contact tracing the government will continue to gather information about the case, and make a decision on future actions based on those inquiries.
Health authorities have also ordered further testing at the woman’s isolation hotel, the Auckland-based Pullman Hotel.
While the case is the first in the community for three months, New Zealand has continued to pick up cases amongst new arrivals, including the concerning UK variant strain.
The country’s total number of confirmed cases is 1927, with 25 deaths recorded since the disease arrived on Kiwi soil in February last year.