After 22 days without a new case of Covid-19 in the community, a port worker in New Zealand tested positive for the coronavirus.
The case is a New Zealand man who worked in the ports of Taranaki and Auckland and started showing symptoms on Friday, before testing positive on Saturday night.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the chief health officer, was alerted to the positive test in the last hour of voting on Saturday in New Zealand’s election – in which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was rewarded for her success in eliminating two times the virus.
The man and his family are now in isolation, and Bloomfield said the case was being handled as an isolated encounter that most likely saw the infected man at the border, rather than widespread community spread.
“The risk is contained,” Bloomfield said on Saturday. “The emergence of a new community case is troubling and we must remain vigilant.
“The case is another reminder that Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. “
Bloomfield said New Zealanders should not become complacent as Covid-19 continues to devastate the United States and many parts of Europe.
The ports of Taranaki and Auckland will now face increased testing, Bloomfield said. The infected man wore personal protective equipment (PPE) while working on foreign ships and had been tested four times for Covid.
“While we have eliminated community transmission in New Zealand … this is not the case overseas, where the virus is spreading and significant restrictions are in place,” Bloomfield warned.
In August, Auckland began a second three-week lockdown after a large cluster of the disease emerged in south Auckland, with more than 100 people infected. The last community case confirmed in New Zealand dates back to September 25.
Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles, from the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences, said the latter case was unlikely to have led to community transmission and that early identification of the disease showed that border protections seemed to work.
“It is highly likely that the person was infected after being on an international ship to perform maintenance work for the past two weeks. Genomic sequencing can help further identify the source of his infection, ”said Wiles.
Ardern assured the New Zealanders on Saturday that nothing at this point to suggest that a change in alert levels was necessary.
“There is nothing to suggest moving any of the restriction levels, this is someone who worked in a high risk area and was tested multiple times,” Ardern said. “This individual has already been tested four times in routine testing. This is an example of how the system works. “