Covid-19: Minister Chris Hipkins thinks city lockdown unlikely despite new cases

Christchurch’s central city bus interchange will be closed for a deep clean at 8pm on Friday, after it was named as a location of interest in the city’s Covid-19 outbreak.

“We are doing a deep clean of the Bus Interchange out of an abundance of precaution,’’Christchurch City Council head of facilities, property and planning Bruce Rendall said.

The interchange would close from 8pm for an overnight deep clean. People using buses at this time should use the Manchester St stops, he said.

On Friday, the number of positive Covid-19 in the city increased to four – though the city, which is at alert level 2 – is still unlikely to be locked down.

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Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Stuff the Government would need to see evidence that transmission had taken off before putting the city in lockdown, and advice he had received suggested that was unlikely.

He believed they would be able to “ring-fence” the number of people involved because the initial cases had been in a limited number of places with a medium to high risk of exposure.

Hipkins comments came after the Ministry of Health announced two close contacts of the two existing Covid-19 cases had also tested positive, bringing the total number of cases in the Christchurch outbreak to four.

One of the new cases was infected after one of the initial cases visited their house. He did not know if the new cases were vaccinated or if they were using QR codes and was unsure if they had been in the community while infectious.

New World Bishopdale, pictured here on Thursday, is one of the city’s 13 locations of interest.


New World Bishopdale, pictured here on Thursday, is one of the city’s 13 locations of interest.

They were currently isolating at home but had the option to go to a quarantine facility, he said.

A new location of interest was also added to 12 others on the ministry’s website on Friday.

A case visited the central city bus interchange on the corner of Lichfield and Colombo streets on Wednesday, October 20, between 2.15pm and 2.45pm.

Hipkins believed the two new cases who tested positive on Thursday evening were also from Bishopdale but was unsure if the 13 close contacts who had been identified were in the same suburb.

The ministry has also confirmed Covid-19 was detected in Christchurch’s wastewater in a test done on Wednesday. The wastewater catchment where the sample was taken from covers a population of more than 300,000 people.

Hipkins said the test would not indicate how widespread transmission was, and was only able to say Covid-19 was in the community.

It could take up to 48 hours to receive the results from other samples taken from a range of sites across Canterbury, he said.

Hipkins praised the number of vaccinations given out in Canterbury on Thursday, with Christchurch figures making up nearly a quarter of the jabs given out across the country that day.

About 3300 people got their first dose on Thursday, while 7500 got their second.

More than 3000 Covid-19 tests were also undertaken across Canterbury on Thursday.

On Friday, Canterbury became the fourth district health board in New Zealand to have 90 per cent of its eligible population vaccinated with at least one dose.

The initial two cases in Christchurch were first revealed early on Thursday. They have since been moved to a managed isolation and quarantine facility.

One of the original two is a woman in her 50s who flew back to Christchurch from Auckland on October 15 after spending five days there under a travel exemption.

The second case – a relative of the first living in the same household – is a truck driver. He spent three or four days driving around Christchurch and the north of the city while potentially infectious.

Hipkins confirmed the driver had been wearing a mask and was considered a low-risk case.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins thinks it's unlikely Christchurch will return to lockdown.


Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins thinks it’s unlikely Christchurch will return to lockdown.

“They don’t tend to be a lot of risk because they are often loading and unloading outdoors or in open spaces and wear a mask.”

He urged people to show kindness and have sympathy for the pair after some Bishopdale residents expressed frustration that the initial case had been allowed to travel unvaccinated.

“We should stick to the mantra that the virus is the problem here and not the people.”

As news of the two new cases emerged, Spreydon School informed staff, pupils and parents in a social media post that a parent of a student had been deemed a close contact of one of the four confirmed cases.

A Covid-19 testing station on Pages Rd, Christchurch, was busy on Thursday after news of two new cases in the city.


A Covid-19 testing station on Pages Rd, Christchurch, was busy on Thursday after news of two new cases in the city.

“The family are not attending school since the identification on Wednesday evening and are following Ministry of Health guidelines,” it said.

The whole school was considered a bubble and anyone with Covid-19 symptoms was asked to get tested.

“We will continue to operate our level 2 protocols and ask our whānau to ensure you follow these for all our students, staff and community members.”

At the end of school on Friday, about 20 parents were waiting outside the main gate. Most were wearing masks and some expressed concern about the development.

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