Sunday, 27 September 2020


Two months before latest Covid-19 case was diagnosed

The Thames-Coromandel District’s 12th case of Covid-19 was 10 days ago diagnosed, almost two months after exposure. However, the Ministry of Health says the person would not have been infectious at that stage.

While restrictions on movement meant the late diagnosis did not lead to an outbreak, the situation could be very different under Alert Level 2, highlighting the need for people to isolate themselves immediately if they feel unwell and get tested as soon as possible.

The most recent of the district’s 12 cases was reported on 10 May and was described as a “weak positive.” It has been linked to overseas travel with the woman in her 50s arriving in New Zealand from France on 15 March - a week and a half before New Zealand entered Alert Level 4.

The Ministry confirmed that the case was directly as a result of travel, making it at least 56 days from the time of exposure to recording the positive test. It appears the test was only undertaken as the women was preparing to return to work. It is not known if she had any symptoms of the virus.

“A person who has had Covid-19 can have a positive test for a long period afterwards,” the Ministry explained. “A positive test late in the disease only tells us that the person has had the virus. It does not provide any indication that the person is still infectious. The evidence to date, including evidence from similar viruses, suggests that a person is infectious from two days before symptoms develop to seven days after symptoms develop.”

A Ministry spokesperson said despite the positive result coming after the infectious period, the woman had continued to self-isolate. It must have been at least 10 days since the onset of their symptoms for a patient to be deemed recovered. After the 10 days, they need to have been clear of all symptoms for 48 hours. There is no specific guidance for cases where there are no symptoms.

On 15 March, New Zealand had just eight confirmed and two probable cases of coronavirus. Just a day earlier, travel restrictions ordering all those arriving into New Zealand to self-isolate at home for 14 days were announced. Currently, all arrivals are quarantined in government run facilities for a two-week period.

The information from the Ministry makes it clear that while these people could return a positive test after that two-week period, they would no longer be infectious to others.

Asked about whether these controls would protect the population with mass movement of people resuming under Alert Level 2, the spokesperson said, “We have been, and will continue to, actively monitor the literature and review our procedures.” While the case highlights the possibility of unknown infections in the population where people have had the virus without being aware of it, surveillance testing carried out to date has shown no evidence of this.”

Both the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, have warned that early testing to enable isolation and contact tracing to get underway as quickly as possible will be crucial in managing any future outbreaks of the virus and preventing a second wave of infection.

Pictured: The Waikato District Health Board numbers on Wednesday last week - 12 cases in the Thames-Coromandel District, of whom 11 have recovered.


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