Thursday, December 9

Government does not rule out quick shutdown in Christchurch after two community Covid-19 cases

Health authorities are still trying to determine the risk to Christchurch of two new community cases of Covid-19 there, and a quick shutdown is not ruled out.

Chris hipkins

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins expects to receive a public health risk assessment on the cases later this morning, which will allow for a swift decision on a possible lockdown, possibly at today’s briefing at the 1 pm

The two cases are from the same household, they are not vaccinated, and the use of the Covid-19 Tracer app has been low.

They have been in Christchurch for up to a week after you returned from Auckland. They tested negative before that trip, as required, but then tested positive.

At this stage, there are no other known family contacts of the couple.

Hipkins said Morning report “The nature of your Christchurch contacts will be established in the morning and then we will have a little more information to share, but these cases came quite late last night.

“My understanding is that they haven’t been well for a while, so they could have been symptomatic and infectious for a period of time while they were back in Christchurch, so that’s one of the things the contact markers will work on. As top priority this morning: Identify exactly what the nature of the potential Christchurch exhibition is. “

It was still unclear how many sights there might be.

“Until last night that identified another home so far that the person had had contact with … but hopefully we will know more in the next few hours.”

The impact of their low Covid Tracer app usage “would ultimately depend on exactly how long they’ve been in the community, you know, if they haven’t been feeling well, they may have stayed home for much of that period. . of time.

“If they’ve had a significant amount of movement within the community, then the fact that they haven’t kept records makes it more challenging because it’s human nature that everyone will forget things.”

The couple appeared to be cooperating with authorities so far, he said.

There was not enough information available yet to make a call about a quick lockdown, Hipkins said.

“We will find out later in the morning this morning what we are dealing with in Christchurch. At this point, we are still waiting to get more information there … I look forward to receiving the public health risk assessment on these particular cases later this morning, and that will allow us to make a quick decision on any follow-up that is required in Christchurch.

“I cannot make a judgment at this time on what follow-up will be required.”

According to figures from the Canterbury DHB, 89 percent of people in the region have received their first dose and 68 percent are fully vaccinated.

Hipkins said it was fine.

“Once those kinds of rates are reached, that starts to have an impact on the spread of the virus.”

But the cases illustrated why there were still restrictions on the South Island, he said.

Epidemiologist professor Michael Baker said the new Christchurch cases were expected, but nonetheless worrisome.

“Some people felt that this virus was inevitable in this outbreak, which was spreading across the country, including the South Island.

“We’ve already seen how easy it is for a case to travel from the North Island to Blenheim recently, so it was probably expected, but obviously it was a big shock.

“If there is only one case in a household member, contact tracing should work very well. The bigger problem is how many other cases are incubating in the South Island, given that we have very few controls on infected people who go up to flights at this time.

“One of the problems, of course, is that a high proportion of people will be asymptomatic or have only a few symptoms, the occasional person will also be vaccinated now, so it is quite difficult to detect all these outbreaks very early.” so it is essential that people present themselves if they have any symptoms.

“I think if the outbreak is well defined, so it’s just the person who has traveled to Christchurch and their household members, it should be very manageable with contact tracing and the usual methods.

“I think it wouldn’t be necessary to raise alert levels in Christchurch if contact tracing sets a really good boundary around it.

“I’m sure the risk assessment they are doing now will be very comprehensive, and that will give us an idea for this case. I think the bigger question is how many other cases the South Island is incubating.”

There were “many precautions” that could be used to keep the virus out of the South Island, Baker said.

“The first thing is to limit the number of people who travel to the South Island from infected areas to essential workers, for example.

“The other thing is at least a basic check before people board flights, especially if they come from an area that is under level 3 restrictions where there is considerable transmission and potentially there should be a requirement for pre-trip testing. , I think there should be a requirement for vaccination more and more. “

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