Authorities are busy tracking close contacts linked to the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown, which has so far been linked to 17 Covid-19 cases, a number which is expected to grow in coming days.
A joint statement from Ministry of Health, Southern District Health Board and Canterbury District Health Board said 400 people from 18 countries attended the conference and as of earlier this week 840 close contacts linked to the conference had been identified.
The conference, which took place between is one of a small number of New Zealand clusters of Covid-19 cases, which also include one at Marist College in Auckland, a travel group to the United States, a rest home in Hamilton and a wedding in Wellington.
It has so far been linked to 15 New Zealand cases of Covid-19 and two overseas cases, and the Southern District Health Board believes more cases connected to the conference will be found.
After attending the conference, some of the 400 participants went on to travel around the South Island as part of a pre-arranged tour. Before the conference some attendees travelled around the North Island.
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The conference and cases connected to it are a major reason why the South has more Covid-19 cases per head of population than most other parts of New Zealand.
The Ministry of Health yesterday released statistics from New Zealand's Covid-19 cases; with 31, the South ranked fourth behind Auckland (45), Capital and Coast (39) and Waikato (34) among the 20 DHBs.
The majority of the 12 new cases in the South revealed yesterday had some connection conference — an event now linked to 15 of New Zealand's Covid-19 cases — as well as two overseas cases.
The SDHB confirmed at least one Covid-19 case attended the Wanaka A&P Show, an event which attracted thousands of visitors, including people from the World Hereford Conference.
"We ask anyone who has developed symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 and who attended the Wanaka A&P show (March 13-15) to contact Healthline or their family GP as they may need testing," an SDHB spokeswoman said.
"More Southern DHB Covid-19 cases are expected to be confirmed in coming days as New Zealanders return home from overseas and as a result of exposure at the World Hereford Conference."
In a joint statement from SDHB, the Ministry and the Canterbury District Health Board, provided to the Otago Daily Tmes, the group detailed the magnitude of finding and tracking all contacts linked to the conference.
"This was a significant conference for the rural sector with extensive reach: 400 people from 18 countries attended the event in Queenstown, and a number continued their travel to other parts of New Zealand after it finished
"The first case health authorities were informed about wasn't exhibiting typical symptoms at the time of the conference.
"He returned to Australia where he subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
When alerted to the positive test, organisers contacted public health officials at Southern and Canterbury District Health Boards (where some of the participants had travelled), and based on advice regarding contacts, an initial message was sent to attendees on March 18 alerting them to possible contact with a confirmed case.
"Since then, public health units - along with Healthline and the Minstry's newly established contact tracing unit - have been working to contact trace and follow up on cases and contacts. Figures through to today have identified 840 close contacts, 583 of whom have been tracked.
"The World Hereford Conference is a clear example of the very real need for action by all of us to help stamp out clusters of Covid-19.
"This action includes health authorities acting swiftly and appropriately to provide initial advice and then actively investigating every case they are notified about.
"It also means individuals acting responsibly and in line with the clear public health advice."