New Kāwhia case, Christchurch races to test, vaccinate as nine isolate

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 Oct 2021, 7:07am
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

New Kāwhia case, Christchurch races to test, vaccinate as nine isolate

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 Oct 2021, 7:07am

A new case has emerged in the small seaside community of Kāwhia as calls mount for those flying out of Auckland to be barred from boarding unless they are fully vaccinated. 

This morning Ōtorohanga Mayor Max Baxter revealed a positive case was detected in the settlement yesterday, the fourth infection in the Ōtorohanga district this week. 

He said the infected person and a close contact were in Kāwhia until Tuesday and were now in isolation elsewhere.  
In the South Island, Christchurch remains on tenterhooks with fears Covid may have escaped into the community. 

So far two people have tested positive after a woman in her 50s flew to Auckland to care for a child. She fell ill after returning to her Bishopdale home and infected her truck driver partner, a man in his 40s. 

The couple were not vaccinated and did not keep track of their movements. 

Nine people across three different Christchurch households have so far been identified as close contacts and are self-isolating. To date there have been nine potential exposure sites in Christchurch including a supermarket, dairies and eateries. 

With the city waiting on word of the test results of close contacts, the truck company which employs the sick driver is helping authorities retrace the delivery run over the four days when the man was at work and considered infectious. 

Health Ministry officials said initial information indicated he was completing deliveries around the Christchurch area, with some trips to north Canterbury. 

People in Canterbury – especially those who lived in Christchurch – with any symptoms, no matter how mild, were being asked to get tested, even if they were vaccinated. 

Yesterday saw a surge on testing stations and vaccination clinics as the southern city was jolted out of Covid complacency. 

'Risky and uncertain period' 

Canterbury University modeller Michael Plank this morning told TVNZ if the virus had already started to spread locally it would probably result in a move in the alert level for the region in the next few days. 

"We're in a risky and fairly uncertain period at the moment," he warned. 

Plank said more preventative measures could be done around regions to stop the virus going from one region to the next. 

Rapid testing on passengers due to get on flights or even inter-island ferries could reduce the risk of transmission hugely, for example. 

"These tests give you a result in 15-20 minutes, so it's quite feasible to do that," he said. 

"They won't catch every last case, but they would provide an additional safeguard that would just slow down the speed of which the virus can make its way around the country." 

His calls were backed by Otago University microbiologist James Ussher who said any flight out of the northern Covid hot zone should only be undertaken by those who were fully vaccinated until the new traffic light alert system came into play. 

Ussher told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking New Zealand was facing significant implications should Covid get into parts of the country at alert level 2. 

"Until we are no longer at risk of having lockdowns I think it would be sensible from a scientific perspective to have a vaccine mandate to travel on airplanes out of Auckland." 

He said having a pre-departure test and being vaccinated were equally important when it came to guarding against spreading or catching Covid during flights. 

Call for sick to get tested 

Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Michael Butchard told TVNZ there had been a lot of planning across all areas of the district health board in the case of Covid-19 arriving in the region. 

Butchard said he hoped that it would become "the norm" for people who become sick to go and get a Covid test. 

"Covid will find its way through those groups with lower vaccination rates." 

He urged people in those groups - namely Māori, Pasifika, young people and rural communities - to get vaccinated. 

The Government has so far kept the city in level 2, holding off calling a snap lockdown due to early information indicating that the two Covid cases had little close contact with others. 

Yesterday Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel called the new cases a "wake-up call" and a "lucky break". 

"It's really good news that we are staying at level 2, but it's a big reminder, a wake-up call for everyone in Christchurch," she said. 

The South has only had one Covid community case during this latest Delta outbreak at a time when Aucklanders have been stuck in their homes in lockdown for the past 10 weeks. 

That solitary case was found in Blenheim last week in a person who flew back from the North Island - yet so far that case has not led to any more infections in the community. 

Before that the South Island's previous Covid community case occurred more than a year ago.