Action taken after a fully vaccinated staff member tests positive. David Williams reports.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield is concerned a healthcare professional at Auckland City Hospital worked four shifts while “unknowingly, potentially infectious”.

The hospital staffer, a 21-year-old female, widely reported to be a nurse, is one of six new confirmed Covid-19 cases announced today. The outbreak is linked to the Delta incursion in New South Wales, Australia.

At a Wellington briefing this afternoon, Bloomfield said: “Auckland City Hospital was onto this last evening and took immediate actions in response, including preventing unnecessary movement of staff between wards, extensive testing of staff and of patients on the ward where this person worked, and, of course, preventing staff members who worked the same shift from coming into work and they are isolating and being tested,” Bloomfield says.

At the same briefing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there had been no New South Wales Covid-19 cases at Auckland City Hospital. A case had been transferred from Auckland’s Jet Park Hotel manage isolation and quarantine facility to Middlemore Hospital.

Bloomfield said there was no information to suggest the Auckland City Hospital worker worked in any other hospital. “From this afternoon, anyone at the DHB, particularly Auckland Hospital, who hasn’t had either their first or second vaccination … there will be the opportunity to do that.”

As at 11am today, Auckland regional public health had identified 16 close contacts of confirmed cases, Bloomfield said, and 14 had already been contacted, to ensure they are isolating. It’s not clear how many are contacts of the Auckland City Hospital worker.

“People are easily contactable and are already doing what would be expected of them in alert level four.”

Testing is being arranged. Four are known to be fully vaccinated.

Bloomfield was asked why some visitors who scanned into the hospital’s ward 65 yesterday haven’t been contacted by health authorities.

“I can’t answer that question. But rest assured that the DHB started last night, initially, with staff, of course, and started testing quite widely.”

Contact had also been made with patients on wards where the confirmed case had worked, and colleagues who worked the same shifts were told to stay home.

“Then of course we’ll move further outwards to people who were either with visitors or whānau members and others who may have been discharged. It’s a matter of starting with those most likely to be at risk and then moving outwards.”

Newsroom has asked further questions of the Auckland DHB and the Health Ministry.

Restrictions imposed

The DHB’s anonymised statement, released this morning, said there are visitor restrictions at Auckland City Hospital, Starship and Greenlane Clinical Centre.

“We immediately activated our plans to prevent the spread of the virus within the hospital,” the statement says. “We’ve stopped unnecessary movements between wards, and we’re testing all staff and patients on the ward the staff member worked on. 

“We’re also standing down, testing and isolating staff on the same ward. We’re providing support to any staff members who need it.”

Radio NZ reported Auckland Hospital emailed all staff asking them to stay home if unwell, to wear masks and to restrict their movement around the buildings as much as possible. Those working on ward 65 in the past five days were urged to get a Covid test.

Meanwhile, NZ Herald spoke to an Auckland man who said his two daughters, who flat together with two others on the North Shore, tested positive for Covid-19. One was a teacher at a West Auckland high school and the other was a nurse at Auckland City Hospital. He fears a sharp increase in cases.

The Health Ministry’s anonymised statement this morning, confirming four new cases, said the health professional was fully vaccinated.

The case confirmed on Tuesday, a 58-year-old Devonport man, is Case A. Another case confirmed this morning, a 20-year-old man, worked with him. His three flatmates, including the hospital worker, are confirmed cases. Locations of interest are listed on the ministry’s website.

Genome sequencing of Case A confirmed he had the Delta variant.

The country plunged into a Level 4 lockdown at midnight last night – at least a week for Auckland and the Coromandel, and three days elsewhere. The ministry warned of long queues at testing stations.

The duration of the most severe lockdown depends on many variables. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder reported this morning that if a close link is found to the border (meaning limited upstream transmission) and the country is lucky on the downstream transmission, then it could be wrapped up pretty quickly.

Healthline’s number is 0800 358 5453. To find your local Covid-19 testing station, visit the Healthpoint website: 

David Williams is Newsroom's environment editor, South Island correspondent and investigative writer.

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