Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Covid case in Wellington – worker at centre of inquiries

A person in Wellington has returned a positive test result but it is under investigation because the viral load is low, the Herald understands.

The Ministry of Health said a ‘weak positive’ result was picked up as part of routine surveillance testing in Wellington yesterday.

This was for an essential worker from Auckland working in the city.

The result could indicate a historical case or a case in the earlier stages of infection, the Ministry said.

The worker is having a repeat test today and follow-up with the workplace includes tests of co-workers.

It’s understood the person who has tested positive, a construction worker, was working on the Omāroro Reservoir project in Wellington and the site has been temporarily closed.

Wellington Water has been approached for comment.

The new 35 million litre Omāroro reservoir will more than double the city’s water storage. The project is being delivered by HEB Construction.

A HEB Construction spokeswoman confirmed the company was notified by the Ministry of Health last night of a weak positive Covid-19 test result for a worker based in Wellington. The person was not symptomatic and is double vaccinated.

Porirua doctor Bryan Betty, who is also head of the College of a GPs, said he was contacted this morning and told a possible case was under investigation.

“There is indication from Regional Public Health that they are investigating a possible Covid case in Wellington at this point,” he said.

“It’s unclear at this point and we’re waiting for it to be confirmed but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a case in Wellington.”

Betty said it was a matter of when and not if Covid cases arrived in the capital.

“We need to get really focused about vaccination here because Covid will arrive in Wellington at some point.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, speaking just after midday, said it was too soon to speculate or confirm any information relating to the reported new case.

She said any information would be released by the Ministry of Health at 1pm.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council hasn’t had any formal confirmation of a positive case.

But he said the council was aware of reports of a positive case involving a construction worker.

When contacted just before midday, Willis Bond managing director Mark McGuinness said he wasn’t aware of a positive case on any of his company’s construction sites.

Mayor Andy Foster, Capital and Coast District Health Board, and Regional Public Health have all referred queries to the Ministry of Health, which advised any updates would be released in the 1pm written statement.

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said she was aware of rumours but there had been no positive detections in wastewater from the city.

Auckland's traffic light scenario

Health boss Ashley Bloomfield has left open the possibility Auckland could move straight to the “orange” setting when the country’s new traffic light system starts in around a fortnight.

But he remains coy on whether the region might see further freedoms as early as next week with a move to level 3.3 – allowing bars and restaurants to open – ahead of the traffic light system being implemented.

On the traffic light system and the potential that Auckland could move straight to the orange light setting soon, Bloomfield acknowledged that that was still something officials were looking at.

“We are working on the criteria to inform that decision and it includes vaccination rates – that’s important,” Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

Auckland’s three DHBs are sitting on 92.8 (Waitemata), 95.4 (Auckland) and 91.3 (Counties-Manukau) first-jab percentages, with second jabs all likely to be past the 90 per cent mark by early December at the latest.

But other regions are still sitting in the low 70s, including Northland, and will most likely move to the red-light setting.

Bloomfield said the signal was “very strong” that the country was looking to move to the traffic light system soon, with the Prime Minister set to announce the date on November 29.

Hosking quizzed Bloomfield on why Auckland should be given a red light, given that setting was for when the “health system was facing an unsustainable number of hospitalisations” – and that wasn’t the case in the region.

“That’s right actually, we’ve seen that impact with vaccination – hospitalisations have levelled off in the last week or so,” said Bloomfield. “ICU occupancy is below what we had originally modelled – six people yesterday, which is really good.

“I think there’s a difference where places might go into on the framework but remembering that actually for Auckland, even red is more like a 2, 2.5.”

Hosking: “That’s what I’m asking. Based on your criteria, Auckland should be on orange because there is no strain on the health system and everyone’s as vaccinated as you want them to be. And if that’s your criteria, what do we need to do to get to orange?”

Bloomfield: “That’s exactly what we are working on and we’ll be providing that advice through next week. What are the criteria and how you apply those.

“Where places or regions might go on to the model at this point in time – and that’s still not today, it’s in the next few weeks – will be different from what happens when we really bed the model in.”

Bloomfield remained coy when asked directly if Auckland is due to move to alert level 3.3 next week; saying he could not pre-empt what the Government will announce. However, public health advice continues to be considered ahead of the decision.

Bloomfield told Hosking that there would initially be enough AstraZeneca to give to about 1 per cent of the population.

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