A vaccinated Masterton health worker who tested weak positive for Covid-19 has returned a negative second test, the Health Ministry says.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said at today's media briefing that the case was under investigation. There were no community Covid cases in NZ today.
Earlier, Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said she understood from the 1.30pm briefing the local health worker was an unlikely case, but it may make some people in the area feel a little anxious.
Patterson said generally people had become a bit more relaxed around scanning QR codes.
"This is a timely reminder that we can't afford to be complacent," she said. "Hopefully those with Bluetooth capabilities have that switched on.
"We think we will remember where we have been, but it might be popping into the dairy to pick up a litre of milk – in and out. You may forget to scan. We can't afford to do that now."
"It's [Covid-19] going to be with us for a long time. We have to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe."
Level 2 extended in Wellington
Alert level 2 rules will be extended for 48 hours in Wellington, Hipkins said at today's 1pm update, adding that NZ wasn't out of the woods yet.
Hipkins said it's possible that the alert level will go down at midnight on Tuesday based on the test results so far.
Wellington was moved to alert level 2 on Wednesday at 6pm. That level was originally hoped to be lifted at midnight tonight.
The vast majority of the more than 2000 contacts of the Sydney traveller who tested positive for Covid-19 have returned negative tests, Hipkins said.
Testing turnout in Wellington has been low, and Hipkins encouraged more people to be tested in the capital. New locations of interest have been announced.
Mask use is encouraged where social distancing is not possible.
NSW authorities confirmed the partner of the Covid-positive man who travelled to Wellington has now tested positive.
'I think they made the right call'
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said the level 2 extension was the responsible approach.
"It is absolutely essential to look after healthy and safety before we look after anything else. Otherwise, you don't have anything else. So, I think they made the right call."
Foster said no positive cases was a fantastic result but there would be more people who needed to be tested and he encouraged them to do so.
He believed people in Wellington had been very accepting that they needed to do their part now.
"I think people have seen it for what it is."
For some, it was a wake-up call that they we were not post Covid-19 yet, he said.
Alert level 2 would have an effect on the local economy to a certain extent, he said.
"Obviously we have had a number of events which have had to be postponed or cancelled."
That would have an impact on those involved, he said.
"What is the alternative? The alternative would be to just keep going as we were and just hope. That is not a good strategy."
It had been a "huge relief" that so far there had not been a need to scale upwards into a more stringent lockdown, he said.
"It really is that feeling of so far, so good. But we are not quite through this yet. This could have been really bad."
The Australian tourists in this case had visited a lot of places in Wellington, he said, so there had been a lot of people potentially exposed.
He said he expected that health authorities would be looking at trans-Tasman bubble border and the response so far in relation to cases in New South Wales.
"For us domestically, I would say that our job is to be part of that team of five million. To do our contact tracing, to recognise we are not post covid and keep up the good hygiene standards."
More than half of businesses can continue in level 2
Wellington Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Simon Arcus backed the alert level 2 extension as the right call.
From a business perspective the announcement provided some certainty for the next 48 hours but there were still a lot of moving parts, he said, in respect of the New South Wales outbreak and suspension of the trans-Tasman bubble.
Arcus said the bubble was created with the flexibility that it could be shut is down for health and safety.
"It is something that we live with. It is something that ideally wouldn't happen."
Arcus said 54 per cent of businesses reported that at level 2 they can continue operating almost as normal, which he called encouraging.
In contrast at level three the same measure would be only 17 per cent.
"Just one level up is a big change in how businesses fare."
Arcus said there was a silver lining for businesses feeling the pain today in the way the extension triggered activation of the resurgence support payment.
To be eligible a business or organisation must have experienced at least a 30 per cent drop in revenue or a 30 per cent decline in capital-raising ability over a 7-day period, due to an increased alert level.
The payment is calculated as $1,500 per business plus $400 per FTE, up to 50 FTE. The maximum payment is $21,500.
Sole traders can receive a payment of up to $1,900.
Arcus said there was no question that in past the wage support subsidy had made sure business that did have a future were able to have a future.
Aussie travel ban
Hipkins foreshadowed pre-departure testing was likely to be introduced once the transtasman bubble was reopened. The Government would consider whether the testing rule would be implemented across Australia.
"Hold tight and follow public health advice," Hipkins said to Kiwis stranded in Australia.
People who have returned from Sydney are asked to keep to Sydney restriction rules.
Yesterday, Hipkins announced the transtasman quarantine-free travel bubble would be halted for three days starting at 10.30 last night.
The standstill marks the first time the bubble to all Australian states has been paused.
The ban on quarantine-free travel from all Australian states and territories is currently set to lift at 11.59pm (NZT) on Tuesday, June 29.
An exposure event at a Northern Territory gold mine was the tipping point for the transtasman bubble to close, Bloomfield said.
A worker at the mine yesterday tested positive for Covid, sparking concern for over 900 workers who have already left the site.
Hipkins said there was potential for the virus to have spread across Australia from this event and potentially into New Zealand.
The Northern Territory this afternoon announced a 48-hour lockdown for Darwin and Palmerston after four new locally acquired Covid cases were detected.
Greater Sydney and other parts of NSW went into a two-week lockdown at 6pm last night. The state recorded 30 new community Covid cases today.
Expert surprised at ban
Before today's briefing, University of Otago public health expert Professor Michael Baker told Newstalk ZB he was surprised how extreme the ban was.
"I'm surprised this suspension has been extended to all of Australia because some states and territories have done at least as well as New Zealand in terms of sustained elimination."
Baker said some states had shown an ability to quickly close borders when neighbouring states had outbreaks.
Baker told RNZ today "we're not in the clear yet. That will take another few days of no cases.
"This could have turned into multiple super-spreading events."
He told RNZ the case of the tourist exposed "major gaps" in the system.
"A major mode of transmission is by aerosol. The virus doesn't care about the two-metre rule. We know it only takes fleeting contact indoors to get this infection."
Baker said counterparts abroad were saying New Zealand needed to upgrade its approach to dealing with Covid-19.
"The virus has changed markedly and our response needs to change with it."
Travellers with ruined plans after the travel bubble suspension spoke of their anguish and disbelief.
"We haven't see our elderly parents since September 2019. We have endured the horrendous Melbourne lockdown," one man told the Herald.
"We have been vaccinated. We have had clear Covid tests. There were no new cases in Melbourne today. We are New Zealanders."
He said his parents were seriously ill and desperate to see him.