New Zealand reports two new coronavirus cases who flew in from London
New Zealand is no longer coronavirus-free, after two women who arrived in the country from Britain tested positive.
The cases are New Zealand’s first for 24 days, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared the country virus-free last week.
The women were released early from government quarantine and allowed to drive nearly 650km from Auckland to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, before they were tested.
Although the country is quarantining all new arrivals, it had been granting some people compassionate exemptions from the full isolation period.
This was one of them, with the two women allowed to leave early to see a dying parent.
As a result, the women’s travel has forced the government to suspend the compassionate exemptions.
“It will only be reinstated once the government has confidence in the system,” said David Clark, the health minister.
The New Zealand government had already announced that nobody would be allowed to leave quarantine without a negative Covid-19 test, as the women did.
Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, said the women had not put other members of the public at risk, and had “done everything right”.
Both women tested positive for the disease on Monday.
One said that in hindsight, she had been experiencing symptoms. However, she had attributed them to another pre-existing medical condition.
The discovery of the cases comes a week after the last known case of Covid-19 in the country had recovered.
A week ago, all domestic restrictions were lifted on the country – but Bloomfield warned at the time that more cases would arise as people crossed the border.
One woman was in her 30s, and the other in her 40s. “They had no contact with anybody else during that trip,” added Bloomfield, who said he was “not nervous” that they had infected anybody else.
Everybody on the women’s flight into the country would be tested.
“I have asked the Director General to consider if there are any other measures we can put in place to strengthen our health protections at the border,” Clark, the health minister, said.
“We should not be complacent, we need to remain vigilant,” Bloomfield said. “There is a pandemic raging outside our shores.”
The country has recorded less than 1,500 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 22 deaths.
PM Ardern has attracted praise from around the world for keeping the numbers so low, an achievement mainly attributed to a strict and early national lockdown.