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Covid 19 coronavirus: Ashley Bloomfield confirms first health worker case linked to infected Russian seamen

Testing has confirmed the latest Christchurch community outbreak is connected to a Covid-19 strain that has infected international seamen isolating in the Garden City.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield this morning told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking genomic testing had showed an exact match with the infection found in five of the Russian and Ukrainian seamen who are at the Sudima Airport Hotel in managed isolation.

He said the results were linked to the first health worker who became ill. Despite testing negative for Covid on Thursday, the woman became symptomatic on Saturday and tested positive for Covid-19.

A second health worker working alongside the sick female health worker who is now isolating at home with a teenager, has since tested positive.

Bloomfield said the fact that the genomic testing linked the case back to the Sudima outbreak meant there was little fear of a fresh Covid strain unchecked in the community.

He said while there was strict infection control measures inside the facility incursions were always a possibility.

He added he had a high level of confidence the latest cases of health workers becoming infected did not pose a wider threat to others outside the quarantine facility.

With the prospect of other fishermen heading to New Zealand, Bloomfield said it was important to review the episode from before the men left their homeland and ascertain what happened to avoid a repeat of the situation which has left 31 men sick with Covid.

He said despite the men testing negative before their flight here it was obvious there was cross-contamination with an infected person at some point after the testing took place.

Bloomfield’s comments follow a second person working at a managed isolation facility in Christchurch testing positive for Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health said last night the person is a close workplace contact of the case reported on Monday – a health worker at the Sudima Christchurch Airport hotel who tested positive for the virus.

“As the person works at the facility and is not a returnee they are treated as a community case,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Both this case, and the one reported on Monday, came into contact with the international mariners in the course of their duties, including some of the 31 mariners who have tested positive to Covid-19 and who remain in quarantine.”

The second person to test positive was in isolation at home in Christchurch but would be moved to a managed isolation facility. Meanwhile, the person to test positive on Monday remained in self-isolation at their home.

The person was tested as part of the routine testing for staff at the hotel and returned a negative test on Thursday. They are asymptomatic and the virus was only picked up when they were retested as a close contact of Monday’s positive case. They returned a positive test yesterday.

Two close contacts of the person have been identified – both household contacts who were to be tested and would self isolate at home.

“At this stage the ministry is not advising of any need to change the current approach,” the ministry said. “Both cases have limited numbers of contacts and the incident is currently well contained.”

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