Covid 19 Delta variant: Confirmed cases in Christchurch – one infectious in community for two weeks

Two people in Christchurch who have returned positive Covid-19 tests had not been using the contact tracing app regularly, it has been confirmed.

And one may have been infectious in the community for almost two weeks.

The Ministry of Health was notified last night that there were two people in Christchurch with Covid-19.

They are both in the same household.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said one had travelled from Auckland on October 15 and infected a second person in their household.

Both people – in the same family- are both unvaccinated.

The first case returned a negative test before coming to the South Island but later became unwell.

The local public health unit is gathering information from the cases to identify close contacts and exposure events, including any locations of interest.

They have been in contact with at least one other household.

The ministry will undertake a public health risk assessment of the situation this morning and a further update will be provided after that.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said earlier this morning that he had not ruled out a snap lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly Delta variant.

However, he later told the AM Show though that it is unlikely Christchurch would move alert levels.

He said the these cases could have well been infectious in the community for a period of time and while the extent of their movements were largely unknown interviews were ongoing.

Hipkins said the person travelled to Auckland for an authorised trip that involved the care of a child.

“This is the reality we are in in New Zealand, Covid-19 Delta is here, it is in the country.,” he said.

“There’s no way to guarantee the virus won’t make it’s way out of Auckland.”

Hipkins said it was a question of when, not if Delta made its way around the country.

He was notified about the Christchurch cases at about 10.30am last night.

A decision on Christchurch is expected at 1pm.

Christchurch residents are rushing to get tested this morning.

The Orchard Rd clinic near Christchurch Airport was full of cars at 10.30am.

NZME photographer George Heard said there were about 250 cars waiting to get tested this morning.

“Some of these people have been here for a few hours. A lot of families in cars and company vehicles,” he said.

Hipkins confirmed to Breakfast the positive pair have not been regularly scanning in while out and about.

“They have not been particularly good users of the Covid tracer app,” Hipkins said.

He took the opportunity to once again call on the public to get vaccinated.

He said it was now not if the virus would get to those unvaccinated, but when.

“Covid-19 is on our doorstep,” Hipkins said.

“Help us get those high rates of vaccination. It’s very safe to be vaccinated. You’re far less likely to get sick from Covid-19 if you are vaccinated.”

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she woke up to the news this morning like everyone else.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system. It’s not the news I wanted to wake up and hear,” she said.

Dalziel said it is a reminder of just how contagious the virus is.

“It is just a huge reminder to be incredibly vigilant about using QR codes, wearing masks and the significance of getting tested if you have any systems, no matter what.

“It’s going to be really important to get on top of this.”

She said It is heartening 89 per cent of Christchurch residents have had their first dose of the vaccine.

“In three or four weeks we’ll be at 89 per cent double dose, we’re going to be ticking over the 90 per cent.

“The real message is the higher the rates of vaccination, the lower the need for any changes in our alert levels.”

Dalziel said she is hoping the two infected people hadn’t been out and about very much.

“Everything is going to come down to where the person and the other person have been over the last week.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed as I’m sure everyone else in Christchurch has.”

CDHB ready for Covid-19 surge in Canterbury

Dr Helen Skinner, who is the senior responsible officer for the COVID-19 response in the Canterbury District Health Board area says appropriate protocols and procedures are in place to manage people with the virus.

“We care for people with infectious diseases that spread in the same way as Covid-19 each year, and our teams have well established protocols for managing any cases,” she said.

“We operate as an integrated health system, and communicate frequently with our primary care colleagues who know what to do if a suspected case was to contact or arrive at their practice.

“There are existing clinical pathways to support the safe management of Covid-positive patients in the Canterbury community and these have been in place for some time. This includes information about how an exposure event would be managed at a general practice level.”

Skinner said the CDHB’s primary care partners have been given information about how to operate at different risk levels, including when to move work to a virtual platform and what work can safely be deferred.

“Primary care teams are also working with the Ministry of Health on further adjustments to these pathways at a national level,” she said.

“In terms of hospital capacity, in addition to the upgraded 33 bed Parkside Ground Medical space, the DHB currently has 36 physical beds within the ICU and Children’s High Care areas in Christchurch Hospital which can be used in a pandemic response.

“The DHB has 54 negative pressure rooms across its facilities – 38 of these are in Christchurch Hospital.”

Skinner said there was an “upgrading” underway to an area of Christchurch Hospital to provide more capacity in the event of a significant outbreak of Covid-19 cases.

“The upgraded ward, named Parkside Ground Medical, will provide a dedicated space for the DHB to treat Covid-19 positive patients.

“We expect the works on the new space to be completed by the end of this month.”

She said the CDHB continued to “actively consider other options” to improve its facilities in response to the ongoing pandemic, based on our evolving understanding of Covid-19 and its transmission.

Christchurch cases 'a shock' to top Covid expert

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told RNZ although Covid-19 is expected to spread throughout the country, the two Christchurch cases were still quite a shock.

The Christchurch outbreak should be manageable if it is just the person who travelled to the city and their household contact, he said.

He said the bigger question was how many other people were now isolating in the South Island.

Baker said a high proportion of people will be asymptomatic or only have a few symptoms so it was critical for people with any symptoms at all to get tested.

He thought Auckland’s suppression strategy would start to move across the rest of the country, replacing the elimination strategy.

Hipkins spoke to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking about the decision on Christchurch.

When asked if the city could be plunged back to level 4 he said “no not at all”.

“We don’t have the information to make a risk assessment on that,” he said.

“These cases came in late last night, we have got some information on them which means there is obviously questions, we should have answers to those questions later in the morning.

“Both cases are unvaccinated, and I think there is at least one other household that’s been identified with close contacts so they will be working to get in touch with them to make sure they are isolating and tested.”

Christchurch events up in the air as Delta arrives in town

Christchurch is just weeks away from it’s biggest racing events of the year at Addington and Riccarton Raceways.

Addington racing industry managerDarrin Williams said if Christchurch was to move to alert level 3, the racing events would have to run behind closed doors.

Not even the owners will be allowed on-site, just the participants.

Williams said the only thing that would cause them not to race is if the city went into a level 4 lockdown.

“It is certainly disappointing that we have cases in Christchurch, especially if they are unvaccinated and have moved from Auckland,” he said.

“There should be strict protocols for people moving who haven’t been double vaccinated and aren’t proving a clear sample, it puts everyone, not just us, but everyone in jeopardy, I dont know how that’s not plain,” he said.

Williams said no matter what happens they are prepared to follow any guidelines in place.

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