Wellington will move to Alert Level 2 at 6pm tonight after a Covid-positive person from Sydney flew into Wellington and was in the city last weekend

The Wellington region will move to Level 2 from 6pm tonight until 11.59pm on Sunday, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has announced following a special meeting. 

In today’s 1pm press conference, Hipkins said that includes the Wairarapa and Kapiti Coast.

The rest of New Zealand will remain at Level 1.

Alert level 2 means:

  • Limits on gathering size to fewer than 100 people, including tangi, church services, and weddings
  • Physical distancing in public places of 2m, and at least 1m in most other places including workplaces
  • Face masks remains mandatory on all public transport, and encouraged while waiting for public transport and in rideshare services and taxis as well
  • Businesses can open but must follow public health rules including the 100-person cap on venues
  • Hospitality locations must apply the three S rules (All patrons must be seated, people must be separated to create social distancing between tables, and each table must have a server)
  • As with all levels, people with symptoms should call Healthline or their doctor to seek advice on getting a test

The level change comes after a person who travelled from Sydney to Wellington tested positive for the virus upon their return. They were in Wellington from 19 June until 21 June.

Health officials say a Covid-positive visitor from Sydney went to a popular Te Papa art exhibition and for three hours to a bar – and have issued a list of venues and instructions for close contacts.

The visitor’s group stayed at the Rydges Hotel, visited a chemist and twice went to Te Papa on Saturday afternoon June 19. Newsroom understands that on that day the exhibition queue and galleries were crowded and attendees were often in close proximity observing the works.

Here is the list of venues visited and advice for those who might have been at the same place around the same time:

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said earlier health authorities were considering a possible lockdown, telling RNZ’s Morning Report it was one option being looked at.

“Everything is on the table,” he said.

Bloomfield also revealed the Sydney Covid-19 case was with his partner and has four close contacts.

The New South Wales health authority issued an alert about two flights between Wellington and Sydney linked to a Sydney Covid-19 case.

Passengers on a Qantas and an Air NZ flight are being considered close contacts of a Covid-19 case. The Ministry of Health here now says four close contacts had been identified and were self-isolating.

The infected man was on flight QF163 from Sydney to Wellington on Friday evening June 18.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says he is happy at the speed with which Australian authorities notified New Zealand of the case from Sydney.

New South Wales Health issued the alert late on Tuesday night.

The flights were Qantas QF163, which left Sydney at 7.05pm on Friday, June 18 and landed in Wellington at 12.12am on Saturday; and Air New Zealand NZ247, which left Wellington at 10.13am on Monday, June 21, arriving in Sydney at 11.33am.

Based on the time of the onset of symptoms and the CT score it is most likely the person had contracted the virus in Sydney before to their visit to New Zealand.

The Australian state’s health authority is urging anyone who was on those flights to get a Covid-19 test, and to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result.

The temporary suspension of quarantine-free travel from New South Wales to New Zealand is now in place, and will last at least 72 hours.

The Australian state yesterday recorded 10 new cases of Covid-19, and new exposure sites there have been announced.

Check latest locations of interest in Sydney on the NSW Health site.

NSW Health did not provide a list of possible exposure sites in Wellington, or any other New Zealand centres.

The Ministry of Health’s contact-tracing team has been in touch with the airlines about contacting passengers on the two flights to provide advice.

This is the first time an Australian traveller has brought Covid-19 to NZ, and since gone home, the ministry said.

Genome sequencing was underway in Australia to see if the case is linked to the current outbreak in Sydney.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker told Morning Report the travel bubble with Australia would need to be reviewed although overall it was “working well … we are learning as we’re going along”.

“We need to upgrade our alert level system. In Wellington now, we should be moving to the next alert level.

“At the moment, it is a very crude system, we just go to Level 2 which is quite disruptive.

“We need another alert level which involves a lot more mask use but doesn’t disrupt normal activity.”

 Baker said the good news was the travellers on the flight back to Sydney would be easily identifiable.

“The bigger challenge is the contact tracing for this visitor while they were here and we obviously need to know more about the nature of their movement.”

He said the person could have attended a wedding and that was known to be a super spreader event before.

“We just don’t know the level of risk at the moment.”

The contact tracing system in New Zealand was very good, he said.

The latest surge in cases in the Sydney Bondi cluster led NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to extend the state’s mask mandate for all indoor public venues to midnight Wednesday, June 30.

Local government areas of Wollongong and Shellharbour, which had compulsory masks for public transport, would be subjected to the same mask rules as Sydney.

The Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre continued to be the main area of concern to health authorities on Tuesday.

New Zealand health authorities have urged travellers from the state who have been to a location of interest at the times listed to call Healthline, and isolate themselves until they can be tested for Covid-19 and then return a negative result.

Air New Zealand said the pause on quarantine free travel from Sydney meant 28 flights were cancelled over the next 72 hours.

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