New Zealand police have found the COVID-19 runaway who forced the Northland region into lockdown, but Kiwi officials are still no closer to tracing her contacts.
On Friday, COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins announced a snap lockdown of NZ’s northernmost region after a pair of “unco-operative” women were found travelling from Auckland, using fraudulent documents to cross the lockdown border.
Authorities were alerted to the pair on Thursday when the first woman showed COVID-19 symptoms and turned herself in for testing.
When she refused to co-operate with contact tracers and returned a positive result, Mr Hipkins announced the lockdown.
However, the second woman remained on the run until Monday night.
Police say she was found in West Auckland, and has been taken into quarantine under NZ’s COVID-19 health orders for testing.
Unhelpfully for the fight against the virus, neither have co-operated with contact tracers.
“Police have got a reasonably good understanding (of where they have been) using transactions and phone records of where the people were broadly,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told Radio NZ.
“What we really want to know is the places (they have been) and more detail around those places … it’s important and it’s incredibly helpful.”
The second woman was symptomatic for the deadly virus.
“The big question is, ‘Were they infectious out in the community in Northland?’,” Dr Bloomfield asked.
“That’s why we need to know where they were and get on and test people they may have had contact with.
A number of New Zealand media outlets have reported or suggested the women are sex workers: this is yet to be substantiated by public officials.
Officials believe they have travelled to Whangarei, Kamo, Paihia and Kawakawa.
Northland, like the Waikato to Auckland’s south, is in lockdown until at least Friday owing to the pair’s trip.
So far, there have been no further cases picked up in Northland, and Dr Bloomfield said he was “encouraged” by negative wastewater testing.
On Monday, Ms Ardern lengthened Auckland’s lockdown, meaning NZ’s biggest city is certain to be under lockdown restrictions for at least 10 weeks.
“New Zealand is at one of the trickiest and most challenging moments in the COVID-19 pandemic so far,” she said.
Ms Ardern revealed the ‘R’ value had breached one; a sign further growth and spread of the Delta outbreak was to come.
COVID-19 modeller Michael Plank said that meant New Zealand was “now in a race between the virus and the vaccine”.
“We need to do everything we can to slow the virus down and speed the vaccination programme up,” he said.
New Zealand’s vaccination rates slightly trail Australia, with 79 per cent of the eligible population at least partially vaccinated, and 55 per cent double-dosed.