New Zealand confirms 2 new COVID-19 cases 24 days after discharging last patient

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 within in the country Tuesday.

The new cases come just weeks after New Zealand discharged its last COVID-19 patient and declared the country’s hospitals free of patients being treated for the virus on May 27.

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Two female family members, one in her 30s and the other in her 40s, arrived from the United Kingdom on June 7, according to a news release.

Both women stayed in a managed isolation hotel in Auckland and were permitted to leave the isolation to travel to Wellington within a private vehicle on June 13.

They followed all the conditions of their isolation plan – including not having any contact with anyone on the journey or using any public facilities.One of the women started to experience mild symptoms and the other was symptom-free. The symptoms prompted them to visit the Wellington Community Assessment Centre (CBAC) and get tested. The results came back positive and local public health staff are testing and isolating all others who may be at risk of exposure, the news release said.

Potential contacts include people on the same flight connecting from Brisbane, Australia, and people who are in or have been in the same managed isolation facility, including staff. The contact follow-up is being managed by the national contact tracing unit at the Ministry of Health, with support from the local district health boards.

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Footage from the period when the women went through customs and immigration at the Auckland airport is being reviewed and any staff at the border who could have been in contact with both women will also be tested.

“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get but is also something we have expected and planned for,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said. “That's why we have geared up our contact tracing and testing capability to be able to respond rapidly. We know there are people continuing to come to New Zealand from countries where there is active community spread of COVID-19. This is managed through our requirement for two weeks in isolation at the border.”

The identity of the family is not being disclosed to protect their privacy.

“Compassionate exemptions are only granted if a detailed plan for self isolation, testing and health checks in the community is agreed. Everyone that is granted exemptions is assumed to present a risk of COVID-19 and all precautions are taken to manage that risk,” Bloomfield continued. “We have great sympathy for families dealing with bereavements, although today’s news underscores a recent decision to not grant exemptions to attend funerals or tangihanga (traditional Māori funeral ceremony).”

According to the Ministry of Health, the country's total number of confirmed cases is now 1,156, and its combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 1,506. The number of recovered cases remains at 1,482, and no one is currently receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19.