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Health officials in New Zealand, where few cases of COVID-19 occur,report what is believed to be the nation’s first case of community spread in months.
The 56-year-old woman traveled in Spain and the Netherlands late last year and passed through Singapore before arriving Dec. 30 in New Zealand. She quarantined at the Pullman hotel in Auckland for two weeks and tested negative twice, the health ministry said in news releases.
After leaving quarantine Jan. 13 she traveled home with her husband, started feeling ill, and tested positive for coronavirus Jan. 23.
At a Monday news conference, Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins said scientists have confirmed she contracted the South African variant. They think she likely contracted the virus from someone else quarantining at the hotel.
“This is good news because it means we know the source of the infection, and we don’t have to divert our scientists and experts from other COVID work to identify the source,” Hipkins said.
The government is now contacting the 253 people who stayed at the hotel Jan. 9-24, plus staff, and advising them to self-quarantine and get tested, Hipkins said.
The woman and her husband are in self-quarantine. He has not tested positive.
Health authorities have found a small number of cases of UK and South African variants in returning travelers who were in quarantine, the government says.
The last reported case of community spread of the coronavirus was Nov. 18, the Health Ministry’s COVID dashboard says.
New Zealand has controlled the virus by imposing strict travel restrictions and an aggressive national lockdown when the first cases were detected.
Just under 2,000 total cases have been reported on the island nation, according to New Zealand’s COVID dashboard.
In June, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lifted internal travel restrictions but left international limits in place.
“New Zealand did something remarkable in our fight to beat COVID-19. We united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus,” Ardern said in June.
New Zealand news release. “Probable case of COVID-19 in a returnee”