Aucklanders told to work from home as mystery COVID-19 case investigated

Sydney, Australia, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- Aucklanders who work in the central business district of New Zealand’s largest city were on Thursday asked to stay home after the discovery of a mystery COVID-19 case in the community.

A female university student in her 20s, with no apparent links to risk areas such as borders, returned a positive test on Thursday, health officials announced.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are asking people who work in downtown Auckland to work from home tomorrow where possible,” public health director Caroline McElnay said in a press conference.

“If you must go into this area, please use masks and social distancing while health authorities continue work to trace the source of this infection.”

Swabs taken for genome sequencing were being analyzed overnight to help identify the source of the infection.

McElnay said the woman became symptomatic on Monday and was tested on Tuesday and asked to isolate.

“We now know that this case called in sick to work after receiving the advice to isolate, but after a conversation with their manager went to work and wore a mask,” McElnay said.

The student works in a customer-facing role as a shop assistant at clothing store A-Z Collection, which was closed and undergoing a deep clean.

Three of the woman’s close contacts, including a colleague and two friends – one who lives in the same apartment block – reported feeling well, with the two friends being transferred to a quarantine facility out of caution.

All residents and visitors to the apartment block have been told to return home and stay inside while testing is undertaken and common areas were closed for cleaning. A mobile testing station was being moved on-site.

The student’s apartment building sits next door to a quarantine hotel for overseas arrivals, which was evacuated on Monday night, during which returnees gathered on the street outside.

McElnay said, however, the woman had been symptomatic earlier in the day prior to the event, so it was not the source of the infection.

While symptomatic, the woman took short Uber trips to work, and visited a department store and four restaurants, with contact tracing and testing now underway.

She had not attended university since mid-October.

Auckland has experienced two lockdowns so far, however Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said another was not being currently being considered, however this may be reviewed Friday.

New Zealand, which has kept international borders closed since March, has accumulated some 1,991 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, including 25 deaths and 53 active cases. EFE-EPA


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