Ashley Bloomfield confirms 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the community, 1 an isolation facility worker

There are 13 new Covid cases in the community, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield says.

Twelve are linked to the current cluster and one remains under investigation but is believed to be linked.

Ninety-eight people linked to the cluster have been moved into quarantine facility.

There are six people receiving hospital-level care. Two are in Auckland City Hospital on a ward, and four people are in Middlemore.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 90, of which 69 are from the recent cluster, one more in the community, and 20 are imported cases in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

The travel history of the current cluster included the Pak n Save in Apirana Ave in Auckland, on July 31 at 10.09am and again on August 8.

Bloomfield said people were in those locations should be aware of symptoms.

Isolation hotel worker tests positive

Bloomfield said genome sequencing has shown a positive case unconnected to the current cluster. The new case is a man who worked at the Rydges Hotel managed isolation facility.

That could indicate a new chain of transmission, and officials are now rushing to ring-fence the case through tracing and isolating close contacts.

Bloomfield said there were 1880 close contacts of the cluster, 1691 of whom have been contacted and are self-isolating.

He repeated that casual contacts were at very low risk of infection.

The surface testing from Americold was still to be completed, but Bloomfield said people being infected from those surfaces was essentially now ruled out.

The Rydges worker did not have any routine contact with guests, and no other cases have been linked to him so far.

He returned a positive test on August 16 after first having symptoms on August 11. He was transferred to Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility on August 17.

His genomic sequencing results, which came back this morning, match those of a Kiwi who flew in from the USA and was also at the Rydges Hotel from July 28 to July 31, before being moved to the Jet Park Hotel after a positive test.

"At this stage there is no obvious person-to-person connection between the worker and the returnee from the USA but investigations continue," the ministry said.

Initial reviews of CCTV footage and swipe card movements so far show no interaction between them, including no entry to physical locations visited by both of them.

The room the USA returnee was in has been hospital-grade cleaned. It has not been unoccupied since the returnee was there and it remains empty.

"Contact tracing and testing has not connected any further cases to the maintenance worker, and to date this remains a single case," the ministry said.

Six close contacts he worked with at the Rydges Hotel have been identified and are in self-isolation. They have all returned negative results from surveillance testing last week, but all staff and returnees at the Rydges are being retested again as a precaution

Three household close contacts of the man are all in self-isolation and have been tested.

The man attended two of the Emmanuel Cook Islands Good News Fellowship church services on the morning and evening of August 9.

Health officials have contact-traced all attendees as close contacts, and they are in self-isolation.

The venue of the service is a school hall and deep cleaning of the facility is currently underway.

Health officials are currently assessing if environmental testing at the Rydges would provide any further insight.

Yesterday the cluster grew by nine cases, while over 26,000 test results had been returned in the previous 24 hours.

The cluster size grew to 58 cases - with five people in hospital - while almost 100,000 tests have been conducted since the first cases came to light last week.

Hipkins told the Herald yesterday that the outbreak appeared to have been detected before it had a chance to explode - not only in Auckland, but all over the country.

But that was before the news emerged of a positive case unconnected to the cluster.

The current alert settings - level 3 in Auckland and level 2 in the rest of the country - are in place until 11.59pm on August 26, but Cabinet will review the settings on Friday.

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Rules for Alert Levels:

Alert Level 4 — Lockdown

Likely that the disease is not contained and community transmission is occurring.

• Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally

• People instructed to stay at home in their bubble other than for essential personal movement.

• Safe recreational activity is allowed in the local area.

• Travel is severely limited.

• All gatherings cancelled and all public venues closed.

• Businesses closed except for essential services, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics, petrol stations and lifeline utilities.

• Educational facilities closed.

• Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities possible.

• Reprioritisation of healthcare services.

Alert Level 3 — Restrict

Community transmission might be happening.

• Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally.

• People instructed to stay home in their bubble other than for essential personal movement — including to go to work, school if they have to or for local recreation.

• Physical distancing of 2 metres outside home including on public transport, or 1 metre in controlled environments like schools and workplaces.

• Bubbles must stay within their immediate household bubble but can expand this to reconnect with close family/whānau, or bring in caregivers or support isolated people. This extended bubble should remain exclusive.

• Schools between years 1 to 10 and Early Childhood Education centres can safely open but will have limited capacity. Children should learn at home if possible.

• People must work from home unless that is not possible.

• Businesses can open premises, but cannot physically interact with customers.

• Low-risk local recreation activities are allowed.

• Public venues are closed. This includes libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, markets.

• Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures must be maintained.

• Healthcare services use virtual, non-contact consultations where possible.

• Inter-regional travel is highly limited to, for example, essential workers, with limited exemptions for others.

• People at high risk of severe illness such as older people and those with existing medical conditions are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home. They may choose to work.

Alert Level 2 — Reduce

The disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains. Risk assessment. Household transmission could be occurring. Single or isolated cluster outbreaks.

• People can reconnect with friends and family, and socialise in groups of up to 100, go shopping or travel domestically if following public health guidance.

• Keep physical distancing of 2 metres from people you don't know when out in public or in retail stores. Keep 1 metre physical distancing in controlled environments like workplaces, where practical.

• No more than 100 people at gatherings, including weddings, birthdays, funerals and tangihanga.

• Businesses can open to the public if following public health guidance including physical distancing and record keeping. Alternative ways of working are encouraged where possible.

• Hospitality businesses must keep groups of customers separated, seated and served by a single person.

• Maximum of 100 people at a time in a defined space.

• Sport and recreation activities are allowed, subject to conditions on gatherings, record keeping, and physical distancing where practical.

• Public venues such as museums, libraries and pools can open if they comply with public health measures and ensure 1 metre physical distancing and record keeping.

• Event facilities, including cinemas, stadiums, concert venues and casinos can have more than 100 people at a time, provided there are no more than 100 in a defined space, and the groups do not mix.

• Health and disability care services operate as normally as possible.

• It is safe to send your children to schools, early learning services and tertiary education. There will be appropriate measures in place.

• People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, for example those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, and older people, are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home. They may work if they agree with their employer that they can do so safely.

Alert Level 1 — Prepare

The disease is contained in New Zealand. COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.

• Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand.

• Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally

• Border entry measures to minimise risk of importing COVID-19 cases.

• Intensive testing for COVID-19.

• Rapid contact tracing of any positive case.

• Self-isolation and quarantine required.

• Schools and workplaces open, and must operate safely.

• No restrictions on personal movement but people are encouraged to maintain a record of where they have been.

• No restrictions on gatherings but organisers encouraged to maintain records to enable contact tracing.

• Stay home if you're sick, report flu-like symptoms.

• Wash and dry your hands, cough into your elbow, don't touch your face.

• No restrictions on domestic transport — avoid public transport or travel if you're sick.

• No restrictions on workplaces or services but they are encouraged to maintain records to enable contact tracing.

 This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.