Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins with Dr Ashley Bloomfield at today's briefing. Screenshot from livestream.

The health ministry released more information on the movements of a Northland woman who tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation – publishing a list of places she had visited in Mangawhai, Dargaville and Helensville.

The 56-year-old woman who has recently returned from Europe tested negative twice during her 14 days in managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. However, after leaving managed isolation, the woman became symptomatic in Northland and sought a test, which came back positive.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said officials had too little information to make any decision on alert level changes. The only actions taken by the Government so far is extensive contact tracing and the setup of new testing centres in Northland. Officials working in the managed isolation system will be reviewing CCTV footage from the Pullman Hotel and contacting anyone who left recently – around 600 people, Hipkins said – to advise them to isolate and get a test.

The woman travelled in Spain and the Netherlands. Family members still overseas have tested positive for Covid-19 since she left. The woman began to experience muscle soreness a few days after leaving managed isolation in mid-January. As she began to experience more symptoms, she got tested.

The woman lives with just one person, her husband, who is not symptomatic but has been tested. Four other close contacts from the couple’s travels around southern Northland have been identified, contacted and tested and their contacts are also being traced. Testing centres would be set up around Mangawhai. The woman had been travelling around southern Northland with her husband because she had just got back from overseas. “They were not meeting friends, just spending that time together,” said Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

The woman was “extremely assiduous” in using the NZ COVID Tracer app to scan QR codes, Bloomfield said. He said she also had the Bluetooth tracing function enabled and the Ministry of Health would notify others who had Bluetooth enabled and may have been in proximity for long enough to be a close contact.

“This is a reminder to all of us that the pandemic continues, that this is a tricky virus,” Bloomfield said. 

He called on everyone to scan QR codes, enable Bluetooth tracing, wear masks on public transport, wash their hands and stay home when unwell.

Hipkins said officials would retest the woman and were rapidly sequencing the genome of the case. He said it was too early to speculate whether the woman might be infected with one of the more transmissible variants of the virus that has recently emerged overseas. Genome sequencing could help officials connect the case to others in managed isolation or to her family members overseas.

Several of the 13 people who tested positive in the Pullman Hotel while the woman was there were infected with the more transmissible British and South African variants.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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