Wellington will go to Alert Level 2 at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening after someone with Covid-19 traveled from Sydney to the capital over the weekend.
The region, including Wairarapa and the coast from Kāpiti to Ōtaki, would remain on Alert Level 2 until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday.
The rest of the country will remain at alert level 1.
For Wellington, gatherings will be limited to 100 people and social distancing should be observed in public places such as retail stores and supermarkets.
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Masks remain mandatory on public transport and are encouraged in taxis and carpooling services, as well as in any situation where people interact with strangers.
“This is not a lockdown, if we can all contribute and follow the health behaviors that I have described… we can break the chain of potential transmission,” Hipkins said.
Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said there was a strong epidemiological link with the Sydney man and the New South Wales cluster. The man works at a healthcare facility in Bondi Junction, an area at the center of the Sydney outbreak.
“What we know so far is that based on the timeline of symptom onset and the CT value of the test, it is very likely that the virus was contracted in Sydney prior to the visit. “
The man had a dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine and frequently used the Covid-19 tracer application in Wellington.
Authorities had identified four close contacts, two in Palmerston North and two in Tauranga. The two Palmerston North cases had tested negative and the Tauranga cases were awaiting results.
Shops and bars have closed or instituted strict protocols, conferences have been closed, and officials have been sent home – all within hours of the initial notification.
Everyone who visited the popular, paid-for surrealist exhibit at Te Papa on Saturday afternoon was urged to get tested and self-isolate.
The Sydney man visited Te Papa from 3:05 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. on Saturday and went to the ticket Surrealist art: masterpieces from the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum exposure. Anyone who visited the exhibit between 4 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on Saturday is considered close contact and is encouraged to self-isolate for 14 days and get tested immediately.
Te Papa announced on Wednesday that it would close for the day.
He also visited the Rydges Hotel, several restaurants, a pharmacy, and city sights, all of which are located here.
All passengers on the two flights between Wellington and Sydney – QF163 on June 19 and NZ 247 on June 21 – were considered close contacts.
The Department of Health said, based on the time of symptom onset and the CT score, it was likely that the traveler contracted the virus in Sydney before traveling to New Zealand. Genome sequencing was underway in Australia to determine if the case was linked to the existing outbreak in Sydney.
New Zealand authorities were alerted to the situation on Tuesday evening and have set up a process to contact close contacts and obtain further information on the man’s movements in Wellington.
Wellington’s central bar Jack Hackett’s Facebook page announced that it was open Wednesday morning for two football games. Those who were there from 8:45 p.m. to midnight on Saturday were ordered to self-isolate and get tested. Manager Kushla Mathie later said the bar would be closed on Wednesday.
The staff at the Rydges hotel had installed signs in the hotel elevators stating that there should be no more than two people in each elevator.
Approximately 200 Ballance Agri-nutrients staff were currently staying at the hotel for a conference.
T-Tech 21 conference organizer Simon McManus said Transport Minister Michael Wood was taking the stage at Te Papa when museum staff said the venue had to be evacuated on Wednesday morning.
Staff informed all 150 conference attendees – from New Zealand and Australia – of the Covid-19 case. All were evacuated. The conference took place in the Oceania room of the museum. Meanwhile, a separate conference on emergency management at the museum was closed on Wednesday.
More than 100 Inland Revenue Department employees across the country have been sent home to self-isolate after spending Monday at the Rydges Hotel.
Public health professor Michael Baker, University of Otago, said the situation highlights the need for vigilance and an alert level of 1.5. Less than 20% of people scan QR codes on a daily basis, he said.
The Department of Health was in contact with Qantas and Air New Zealand to get in touch with passengers on the flights.
The flights included a Qantas flight (QF163) which departed Sydney at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, June 18. He arrived in Wellington on Saturday June 19 at 12:12 a.m.
The other flight was an Air New Zealand flight (NZ247) which took off from Wellington on Monday, June 21 at 10:13 a.m. He arrived in Sydney at 11:33 a.m.
Passengers on both flights were advised to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of the outcome.
The health ministry reminded New Zealanders to “remain vigilant” and pursue appropriate public health measures.
“The ministry reminds everyone to stay vigilant and stick to the basics: stay home if you feel unwell and get advice on taking a test, washing your hands regularly, coughing and sneezing into your elbow,” wear masks or face covers on all public transport, and keep track of where you’ve been – scan QR codes wherever you go and activate bluetooth tracing in the app’s dashboard.