Covid-19: Mystery remains as to how Delta got out into the community

TVNZ / Pool
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield deliver the 1pm Covid-19 update for Sunday August 29.

Six people who were in the atrium of the Crowne Plaza while the source case was in its lobby have all returned negative day 12 results, leaving a question mark around the potential transmission of the Covid-19 Delta variant into the community.

The outbreak has been linked to a recent returnee from New South Wales who was taken to the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility.

Last week, it was revealed six people were in the atrium – a thoroughfare at the facility – while the MIQ case was in the hotel’s lobby.

Newsroom raised concerns back in July about a public walkway next to the Crowne Plaza MIQ exercise area.
Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
Newsroom raised concerns back in July about a public walkway next to the Crowne Plaza MIQ exercise area.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health said all six people who were in the Crowne Plaza lobby at the same time as the earliest identified case had received negative day 12 results.

READ MORE:
* Covid-19: Crowne Plaza 'gap' sealed, and new testing requirements after possible Delta leak
* Covid-19: Crowne Plaza atrium barrier extended, sealed as leak inquiry continues
* Covid-19: Baby aged under 1 infected with virus in Auckland community outbreak
* Covid-19: Officials suspect virus leaked into Auckland community from MIQ facility

There are now a total of 562 cases linked to the current outbreak.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said there was still a missing piece in the puzzle.

“We have got the source case, who has infected people in the room next to them. At what point did it get into the community?” Baker said.

The returnee believed to be the source of the outbreak arrived on a managed red zone flight from New South Wales on August 7, arriving at the Crowne Plaza between 10pm and 11pm.

University of Otago professor Michael Baker said elimination is still the best strategy for New Zealand, but we are also getting to the stage of having other options.
Supplied
University of Otago professor Michael Baker said elimination is still the best strategy for New Zealand, but we are also getting to the stage of having other options.

They soon returned a positive Covid-19 test and were transferred to the Jet Park quarantine facility days after arriving.

A “gap” between a perspex barrier and the ceiling separating the public from arrivals at the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility was raised as a potential source of transmission.

The epidemiologist said it always seemed like a “long shot” that the source case would infect a person walking through the public walkway.

However, there needed to be further investigation into other areas of potential transmission including the source case’s flight and its air crew, transport from the airport to the hotel and then the three people the source case infected.

“All these possibilities need to be excluded,” Baker said.

A gap in the walkway has since been sealed off.
Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
A gap in the walkway has since been sealed off.

He said the movements of the family who were in a nearby room should be looked at again to see if there were any potential exposures with the public.

While the source of the last two outbreaks were never found, this time “we have come closer” as the date of the virus arriving is known.

“It is concerning because we want to close off the transmission,” Baker said.