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Covid-19: Fifth Covid-19 case in Christchurch ‘likely’ historical, source of Tongan case remains unknown


Finding out how two different people caught Covid-19 will be key to deciding whether Christchurch needs a lockdown, experts say.

Christchurch now has five confirmed community cases. Four are clearly linked with a clear source, but a fifth case, revealed on Saturday, is not linked.

The fifth case is considered low risk and is likely to be historical, a Ministry of Health spokesman confirmed to Stuff.

This case, who is fully vaccinated, had gone through managed isolation (MIQ) in Auckland and, after returning a negative day 12 test, left on October 24 and returned to Christchurch. They got tested on Thursday and returned a positive test late on Friday.

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The case is now self-isolating in Christchurch.

A Ministry of health spokesman said the case is not linked to the other four and is likely to be historical – but investigations were continuing to confirm this.

STUFF

Stuff visited Bishopdale Village Mall to see how Cantabrians are feeling about the new cases of Covid-19 in Christchurch.

Meanwhile, questions remain about how a person – who tested positive for Covid-19 in Tonga – caught the virus.

They flew to Tonga from Christchurch on Wednesday and had a negative pre-departure test. However, a test upon arrival on in Tonga came back positive on Friday.

The Ministry of Health has since confirmed four contacts of the Tongan case – two in Christchurch, two in Wellington – have tested negative.

Some experts fear the Tongan case could be a sign of undetected community transmission in Christchurch.

Two Christchurch buses used on Wednesday October 20 were listed as locations of interest on Saturday. (File photo)

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

Two Christchurch buses used on Wednesday October 20 were listed as locations of interest on Saturday. (File photo)

On Friday evening, immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said the Tongan case likely indicated “more Covid-19 spread in the Christchurch community than is being currently reflected by the Covid-19 case numbers”.

University of Otago epidemiologist professor Michael Baker told Stuff there needed to be more information about both cases before determining whether there was wider community transmission.

He said we needed to know whether the Tongan case was genuine, whether they had caught the virus in Christchurch, and whether they were linked to the city’s other community cases.

Unlinked cases could lead to an alert level change, experts said.

University of Otago epidemiologist professor Michael Baker says there needs to be more information before it can be known if there is wider undetected community transmission in Christchurch.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

University of Otago epidemiologist professor Michael Baker says there needs to be more information before it can be known if there is wider undetected community transmission in Christchurch.

“I think as soon as you’ve got evidence of unlinked cases, you probably do need to [change alert levels],” Baker said.

Auckland University microbiologist and science communicator professor Siouxsie Wiles said the situation was tricky.

“If there’s possibility of wider, undetected transmission, they’d be better off moving [alert levels] sooner rather than later,” she said.

“The really important thing from [this case] is going to be: are they linked to the current outbreak, or are they an indication of undetected transmission?

“The genomic sequencing and the contact tracing discussions will help answer that.”

A spokesman for Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said based on the most recent information, public health officials were not advising an alert level change.

Christchurch has remained at alert level 2 this week, despite the city’s first community cases in nearly a year.

Christchurch’s locations of interest grew to 22 on Saturday.

A location of interest means the site was visited by someone who was later confirmed to have Covid-19.

One new location – Hillmorton Pharmacy – has been deemed higher risk than any others. Anyone who visited between 11am and 11.30am on Wednesday, October 27 should stay at home and test immediately.

Anyone who visited the other locations only needs to get tested if they develop symptoms.

Other new locations added on Saturday included two buses (numbers 5 and 17), The Warehouse Barrington, FreshChoice Barrington and Super Liquor Barrington.

Vaccinations across Canterbury have spiked since Christchurch’s community cases emerged early on Thursday.

About 11,000 jabs were given in the region on Thursday and just shy of 8000 were given on Friday.

71.8 per cent of Canterbury’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated.

On Saturday, vaccines were on offer at a pop-up clinic in the heart of Aranui, a Christchurch suburb with the region’s lowest vaccination rates.

166 people got vaccinated and the majority were getting their first dose.

The suburb is home to about 3400 eligible residents and data released earlier this week showed only 45.2 per cent of them were fully-vaccinated.

The rates are even lower among Aranui’s Māori residents. Only 28.5 per cent of them are double-jabbed.



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