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Hundreds of concerned Aucklanders have swamped Covid testing stations today - with so far no further positive tests, says director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.
More than 600 Covid tests had been conducted at the Orewa station alone, Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB's Heather du Plessis-Allan, following the discovery of three positive cases in the community - one in Northland and two on Auckland's North Shore - in the past week.
The two confirmed cases on the North Shore - a father and daughter - have been moved into quarantine.
Bloomfield said it was still too early to say whether Aucklanders should be staying put for anniversary weekend.
"There's been a lot of testing - so it's been great to see the response. The more tests we get back that are negative, the more confident we can be that we have headed off community transmission. We can give firm advice tomorrow."
Bloomfield announced earlier today that all returnees in managed isolation would now be required to stay in their rooms for the last two days of their time in quarantine after the three new Covid-19 cases were discovered in the community.
Bloomfield said he could not confirm reports out of Australia that 12 people had left the Pullman Hotel - where the three community cases originated - and since travelled to Australia.
"I can't confirm that," he told du Plessis-Allan. "I do know that of the 354 people who we have followed up from the 9th (of January), that three of those people had subsequently travelled overseas - I do not know where to.
"There's been a lot of testing - 600 in Orewa and no further positive tests. So that's good news so far."
No more former Pullman guests had tested positive either. Health officials were chasing the 48 remaining former guests - from a total of 354 guests - to ensure they had not only had a test, but had come back negative.
Bloomfield said the latest two community cases, who were re-tested yesterday and announced last night, were a father and his young daughter from Auckland's North Shore.
They had been moved into quarantine and the child's mother is isolating at home for 14 days. It's been confirmed the father and daughter also have the South African variant. They recently returned to New Zealand and left managed isolation at Auckland's Pullman Hotel on January 15.
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Bloomfield said there was still no evidence of community transmission. New Zealand would have a "very good picture" tomorrow as to whether there had been community transmission, he said.
Interviews have been carried out with the family who tested positive and the list of the locations they visited is on the Ministry of Health website and Bloomfield said this would continue to be updated.
Bloomfield said he didn't know the detail of why Albany Farmers - which one of the cases visited on January 24 between midday and 1pm - was identified as a location of interest and not the entire Westfield mall it sits in but said he had confidence in contact tracers' ability to identify locations.
The father was not at work and the child was not at an early childhood centre.
Bloomfield said the long exposure events was to "cast the net wide" as a precaution, he said.
Close contacts of the family have been identified and are isolating and being tested.
Bloomfield said the queues at the pop-up testing stations in Ōrewa and Albany have now reduced to about 30 minutes. There is also now food, water and sunscreen at the sites and traffic management.
Bloomfield said he wanted to see even more people using the Covid Tracer app and thanked Kiwis for the surge in scanning in recent days.
Pullman Hotel under microscope and new MIQ rules
The Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility is under the microscope after three people were infected during managed isolation.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Pullman Hotel is closed to new arrivals while an investigation is underway into how the virus spread. Once all its current guests have left it will also undergo a deep clean. Investigators will also look at whether there are any risks that need to be mitigated - including whether exercise rules needed to be changed.
Hipkins said everyone who has a MIQ voucher will still have a place and taking the Pullman out of action wouldn't affect their spots.
The Pullman is one of the largest MIQ facilities and Hipkins said, on the whole, it had performed very well.
Hipkins said the investigation has established that the source case and the other cases have been out of their rooms at the same time but for different reasons.
So it appeared that there could have been some circumstantial conditions where the virus could have spread, such as in a lift or hallway, he said.
Hipkins said even countries that accepted fewer returnees or Australia, where people can't leave their rooms, have Covid-19 incidents.
"There is absolutely no risk-free pathway here."
The CCTV upgrade at the Pullman "has not been completed" so it's not as good as other facilities and Hipkins said it was "unfortunate" the Pullman was one of the last facilities to get the upgrade.
All returnees are now required to stay in their rooms after their day 12 test - this is an interim measure and will come into effect from Saturday. It could, however, become permanent, he said.
Hipkins said he was also due to get more advice at the end of the week as to whether they needed to change the spread and arrival of returnees.
Hipkins said everyone who had a MIQ voucher would still have a place.
The introduction of day 0 testing was introduced after the latest cases and that "will make a difference in the future".
There were 219 staff working in the Pullman between 9 to 13 January - 201 have been tested and all have been negative except the two positive cases last night. They are awaiting two test.
Hipkins said the 52 guests from the Pullman who haven't yet been tested or had their results have been contacted and been told to isolate.
Bloomfield said those people were being continued to followed up and they had codes on their samples so the laboratories knew to expedite the tests.
Asked what happened during a deep clean, neither Hipkins nor Bloomfield knew exactly what was involved.
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier said she seeking advice from health officials on extra measures for travellers after completing managed isolation.
Ardern said "something had happened", resulting in the virus being spread among guests at the Pullman Hotel. As a result no new returnees were coming into the hotel while the situation was being investigated.
An Auckland parent and child who also recently left the Pullman were confirmed as cases last night. They are being moved to a quarantine facility.
This morning, Hipkins said the infection spread was alarming and investigations were under way to determine what had led to the current outbreak.
"There does appear to be something at the Pullman Hotel and we're looking very closely to identify what it was there," he told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.
Those already in managed isolation at the hotel would be forced to stay there until they had contained the risk and the hotel would not be accepting new arrivals.
"The Pullman hotel will empty out a little bit and we're not letting anyone leave the Pullman hotel at this point until we're absolutely certain we've contained whatever the risk is," he said.
Last night the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said a number of measures were being imposed as a result of the infection breach.
It included a deep clean of commonly used areas, tighter restrictions on movement of returnees including no arrivals or departures from the facility, and increasing hotel ventilation.
The Ministry of Health was also requesting returnees who had recently left, to not fly, to stay home and have an additional test within 48 hours.
Staff posted at the facility were being restricted from working at other sites.