Sabtu, 15 Agustus 2020

New Zealand cases rise as possible Melbourne link investigated - The Sydney Morning Herald

New Zealand has confirmed seven new coronavirus cases, while authorities are investigating whether the mysterious Auckland outbreak is linked to a cold storage facility in Melbourne.

New Zealand's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield on Saturday said that as part of the investigation, he had been in contact with health officials in Victoria, where there had been a recent outbreak linked to an Americold cold storage facility in Melbourne.

NZ Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

NZ Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.Credit:Getty Images

But the chief executive of Americold for Australia and New Zealand, Richard Winnall, rejected Dr Bloomfield's suggestion COVID-19 may have come to Auckland in frozen sea freight from the Americold facility in Victoria.

Winnall declared "that site at Melbourne has never shipped any freight to the [company's] Mt Wellington [Auckland] facility according to our records".


The source of the New Zealand outbreak has not yet been determined by officials.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday said the earliest case identified was a worker at an Americold storage facility in Mt Wellington, Auckland, who became sick on July 31st – though that person may not be the origin of the outbreak.

The country now has 56 active cases, including 37 from community transmission, and is scrambling to limit the spread of the outbreak after its 102 day run of no community transmission ended last Tuesday.

Of those 37 cases, 35 had been confirmed to be linked to the Auckland cluster and the other two are both suspected to be linked to the cluster.

A total of 54 people linked to the Auckland cluster are now in managed quarantine to control the spread of the virus and a total of 86 per cent of these people’s close contacts had been reached within 48 hours by contact tracers.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases linked to the Mt Wellington Americold site has grown to nine people, while eight more people are awaiting test results and contact tracing is being conducted.

An Americold cool storage facility in Australia.

An Americold cool storage facility in Australia.Credit:Pat Scala

Dr Bloomfield said that "we have been doing some environmental testing as well at the Americold store in Mt Wellington."

"That is being processed today."

"I have also had contact from my counterpart in Victoria who has linked me with their lab there, that is doing some genome sequencing on some [coronavirus] cases of employees in an Americold cool store there in Melbourne, just again to see if there is any possible linkage there, so we are looking at that possibility, it’s part of the overall puzzle and we are leaving no stone unturned."

The possibilty that the virus is linked to the Melbourne facility is just one of the avenues being examined by New Zealand authorities as they scramble to determine the source of the outbreak.

Bloomfield said that genome sequencing indicated there was no link between current community outbreak in New Zealand and the outbreak from earlier this year.

Mr Winnall said there had been two positive cases of coronavirus linked to the firm's Melbourne storage facility three week ago but after working with the Victorian health authorities the company had ensured there was no transmission in the workplace.

"Since Wednesday and the first press conference held by Dr Bloomfield, he has mentioned the potential of this coming in on frozen sea freight because they are looking at all alternatives. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone has put to me that substantiates that [theory]," he said.

"There is no inbound freight from the Melbourne facility to the Mt Wellington facility. To my knowledge there is no relationship between the other facilities in Auckland [the company has four sites in Auckland] and the Mt Wellington facility."

The company, Mr Winnall said, was fully supporting the New Zealand Ministry of Health investigation at the site and said he was eagerly awaiting the results of swab testing of surfaces at the Mt Wellington site.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said it was “very heartening” that the outbreak and cases all remained connected to one cluster and pleaded with all Auckland residents to follow the rules of the level three lockdown.

“We all want to be out of level three as quickly as we can, people following the rules is the best way to ensure that,” he said.

“We want to get businesses open and operating again, we want to get people back to work as quickly as we can.”

New Zealand processed 23,846 tests on Friday, a new record for the country, and has conducted more than 49,000 tests over the last three days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has to decide by Monday whether or not to delay the country’s national election, which is due to be held on September 19.

Ardern said on Friday that New Zealand was 'going hard and going early' after learning from the coronavirus outbreak in Australia, as she extended stage-three restrictions in Auckland by a further 12 days and kept the rest of the country under stage-two restrictions.

"We have always taken a precautionary approach because if you make a wrong move, with COVID, we can see very easily the long term impact of that particularly in terms of how long, as a consequence of the wrong move, you can spend with restrictions. Australia has demonstrated that to us, we are looking at the experience of others in making our decisions,” she said.

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2020-08-15 04:57:00Z

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