The Government has held off on changing alert levels for now despite a new community case of Covid-19 with no known origin

Aucklanders working in the city’s central business district have been asked to stay at home on Friday as health officials try to determine the source of a new community case of Covid-19.

However, the Government has held off on changing the country’s alert levels, with Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins saying the current circumstances are different to those which sparked Auckland’s Level 3 lockdown in August.

Earlier on Thursday afternoon, Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield revealed a new community case of the virus had been identified, with no clear link to the border or anyone in a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility.

Providing an update with Hipkins on the investigation into the case, director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay said Auckland Public Regional Health had conducted a detailed interview with the woman infected with Covid-19, and determined she had worked in a customer-facing role as a shop assistant in central Auckland.

After becoming symptomatic on November 9 and seeking a test on November 10, she called in sick to her workplace on November 11 but, after a phone call with her manager, went to work wearing a mask.

Three people had been identified as close contacts, including a colleague and two friends, and had been asked to undergo a test and self-isolate until the results were returned.

People living at the Vincent Residences, where the new case resides, had also been asked to seek a test and self-isolate. A deep clean of the building’s common areas had been commissioned and was taking place.

The woman’s workplace, A to Z Collection, had also been closed as a result of the positive test, McElnay said.

“As we’ve been saying for the past few weeks, Covid-19 has been raging around the world and it will continue to be an increased threat here for some time.”

Genomic sequencing of the new case was taking place overnight, which would allow officials to determine whether there was a link to a previously identified case. Pop-up testing was also available in Auckland for anybody who wanted to seek a test.

McElnay said she was aware of a fire alarm at an MIQ facility near the Vincent Residences on the evening of November 9, which could have led to inter-mingling of people. However, that was unlikely to be the cause of transmission in the new case, as she had first developed symptoms earlier that day.

Hipkins said the Government had moved quickly while it investigated the source of infection, and wanted Aucklanders using public transport, as well as those flying in and out of the city, to wear face masks.

Those who worked in central Auckland were asked to work from home if they could, but if that was not possible they should maintain social distancing and public hygiene protections.

The Government would have more information on the case, including the genomic sequence, on Friday and could then decide whether the country’s Covid-19 alert levels needed to be reviewed.

Hipkins defended the decision not to move on the alert levels now, saying there was still a possibility that the latest case could be contained.

When Auckland moved to Level 3 in August, there was already evidence of transmission within the community among a larger number of likely cases.

New Zealanders needed to stay vigilant and maintain social distancing and good hygiene measures, he said.

“As we’ve been saying for the past few weeks, Covid-19 has been raging around the world and it will continue to be an increased threat here for some time.”

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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