Otago Daily Times

Public health risk from new case deemed ‘very low’

- JASON WALLS

WELLINGTON: Testing has begun for the close contacts of a newly confirmed Covid19 case — the mother of the Covidinfec­ted child confirmed in Auckland last week.

The woman, the mother of the Covid19 positive toddler who had been at the Pullman Hotel along with her father, is now in isolation at the Jet Park facility.

Covid19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday the public health risk as a result of the new case was ‘‘very low’’.

That was because the mother, who had previously tested negative, had been selfisolat­ing after her child, and the child’s father, tested positive last week.

She was tested on January 27 and 30.

On the latter date she started to feel ‘‘slightly symptomati­c,’’ Mr Hipkins said.

As a result, she was tested again on Monday and Tuesday.

The latter test came back Covid19 positive.

‘‘This is an example of the testing system operating exactly as it should,’’ Mr Hipkins said.

The new case was one of seven reported yesterday. The others were in managed isolation.

Of those six, half were caught during dayone testing.

Mr Hipkins also said yesterday the first 250,000 vaccines, which would be in New Zealand by the end of next month, would be shipped in separate batches.

‘‘The indication­s that we’ve had from Pfizer is that our 226,000 would not all arrive all at once, but they’re likely to come in smaller instalment­s, potentiall­y week after week.

‘‘Our focus is on gearing up and being ready for the first smaller batch as soon as it does arrive.’’

Mr Hipkins stepped back from his previous comments that New Zealand would be at the front of the vaccine queue.

‘‘When I made those comments, I was looking at it in terms of a normal vaccinatio­n programme.’’

But since then, other countries had engaged in an emergency approvals process, depending on the effect Covid19 was having on their population­s.

Mr Hipkins now said New Zealand was going to be ‘‘among the first countries’’ to get the vaccine.

New Zealand could also be sent nearly 250,000 doses of the AstraZenec­aOxford Covid19 vaccine before July as part of its deal with an internatio­nal alliance.

The Covax scheme, which New Zealand joined last year, has released a provisiona­l breakdown of what countries are set to receive, but final delivery will depend on a range of factors, including regulatory obligation­s.

The scheme aims to provide vaccine coverage for at least 3% of participat­ing countries’ population­s, ‘‘enough to protect the most vulnerable groups such as healthcare workers’’.

Medsafe has yet to sign off on the AstraZenec­aOxford vaccine.

Mr Hipkins said the regulator had been gathering evidence in advance so it could process the applicatio­n quickly.

He said the approval process would still be carried out thoroughly.

However, Covax warned this forecast was ‘‘nonbinding and may be subject to change’’. — The New Zealand Herald/RNZ

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