Two UK travellers bring coronavirus back to New Zealand on trip to visit dying relative

16 June 2020, 09:20

New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield
New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

New Zealand has reported its first new cases of coronavirus for 24 days after two women who arrived in the country from the UK were found to be infected.

One of the women is in her 30s, and the other in her 40s arrived in the country from the UK together on June 7 and were tested for Covid-19 on Monday.

The pair were granted early release from quarantine for compassionate reasons and allowed to drive almost 650km from Auckland to Wellington, before being diagnosed or even tested, health officials said.

The New Zealand Herald reported one of the women showed mild symptoms after arriving in Auckland, but it was put down to a pre-existing condition so the women were placed in managed isolation rather than quarantine.

Their application to leave quarantine was speeded up due to the sudden death of a parent, Ashley Bloomfield, the country's Director-General of health said.

The women had “done everything right” Dr Bloomfield said, and had not put other members of the public at risk and the pair had only been in contact with one family member in Wellington, who had also been staying at home.

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Dr Bloomfield said that as part of their travel plan, the women had no contact with any people or any public facilities on their road trip.

Nevertheless, the new cases have sparked a round of testing in New Zealand for anybody who might have been close to the women.

That includes passengers and staff on their flights, which arrived via Brisbane in Australia, other people at the Auckland hotel they initially stayed at in quarantine, and a family member they met in Wellington.

The women remain in isolation in Wellington and have delayed the funeral of their parent until they have recovered.

Until Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without any new cases and had declared that everybody who had contracted the virus had recovered, aside from the 22 people who died.