Covid-19: Covid case colleagues ordered to stay home

Employees of two Auckland companies have been ordered to stay home as health officials track the movements of our new Covid-19 cases - including one woman who visited tourist sites in Rotorua

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has used his special powers under the Health Act to order visitors, contractors and employees of two Auckland companies to stay at home until they are contacted by our national contact tracing service.

The two companies - Americold (a cold storage business in Mt Wellington) and FinanceNow on Dominion Rd - have been connected to four cases of community transmission announced last night.

Four more "probable" cases have since been linked to those cases of community transmission.

"All of these probable cases are awaiting test results. We will make available the test results as soon as we have them."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also confirmed businesses nationwide have one week to display a QR code at the entrance to their facility under a new Covid-19 public health response order which came into effect at noon today.

Earlier on Wednesday, Bloomfield revealed one of the new Covid cases, a woman in her 20s, visited Rotorua the weekend before testing positive. 

At a press conference later that afternoon he said she had visited a number of eateries along with the Skyline Gondola (9th August from 4pm-6pm) and the Rotorua Heritage Farm (10th August from 3-4pm). 

Speaking to media, Bloomfield said the woman had told public health staff about the trip late on Tuesday night, before a follow-up interview on Wednesday morning confirmed their movements while there.

Rotorua residents, along with all New Zealanders, needed to be vigilant about their health and seek a test if they were symptomatic or a health professional recommended it, with testing sites available in both Rotorua and Taupo.

Bloomfield said all 130 staff in the workplace of the first case, a man in his 50s, were being considered as close contacts, with the national contact tracing centre following up with each person.

Environmental testing of the workplace would take place, while health officials were also carrying out genome testing of positive cases which could narrow down their origin.

The family with the four cases were still in isolation at home, with discussions still underway about a potential move into a quarantine facility in Auckland.

Ardern said the Government had launched a rapid response to break the chain of transmission.

Aucklanders were asked to cover their face when they left home to access essential services, with any face covering over the nose and mouth (such as a bandanna) sufficient if a mask was not available. People in other parts of the country should wear masks in places where social distancing was not possible, such as on public transport.

Ardern said five million masks were being released from the national stockpile to be distributed, while officials were also looking at distributing masks via food parcels and social services for vulnerable New Zealanders.

Earlier today the dissolution of Parliament was delayed after the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community, with the Government seeking further advice around how the new cases may affect the September 19 election.

Speaking about the decision to postpone dissolution of Parliament, which had been scheduled to take place this morning, she said it was important to retain as much flexibility as possible to respond to information gathered over the next 72 hours.

While Cabinet still had a mandate to make decisions, dissolving Parliament now would mean it could not meet if it needed to convene for any reason.

The dissolution had been extended until Monday for the time being, with a further extension possible. The Government and Electoral Commission were seeking advice around options for the September 19 election date, although no decisions had yet been made.

Ardern and Bloomfield both rejected claims they had been too slow to act and inform the public, saying it had been necessary to gather as much information as possible given the gravity of the situation.

"The gears do not start moving once we tell the public - that happens well before," Ardern said.

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