Live updates, December 12-13: Three new imported Covid-19 cases; Air NZ worker likely infected in US

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 12-13.

6pm: The weekend in sum 

An Air New Zealand crew member has tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in New Zealand on a flight from the United States on December 9. Early results from genome sequencing suggest they were infected in the US, not New Zealand.

New Zealand and the Cook Islands announced a travel bubble which is currently on track for the first quarter of 2021.

Three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation were announced.

The US has authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use with the first vaccinations to begin in the next 24 hours.

1.30pm: Three new imported Covid-19 cases; Air NZ worker likely infected in US

According to the Ministry of Health, there are three new cases of Covid-19 to report in managed isolation in New Zealand today. There are no new community cases. Of the three cases:

  • Case 1 arrived in New Zealand on December 7 from the United States. They tested positive during routine testing around day 5 and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • Case 2 arrived in New Zealand on November 30 from the United States. They tested positive during routine testing around day 12 and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • Case 3 arrived in New Zealand from the United Kingdom on December 10 and tested positive on arrival. They have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

One previously reported case has now recovered, so our total number of active cases is 56. Our total number of confirmed cases is 1,740.

Yesterday laboratories processed 4,245 tests for Covid-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,341,978.

Air New Zealand crew member

The source investigation continues into the positive Covid-19 case in an Air New Zealand crew member which was reported yesterday (see 4.10pm).

The crew member arrived in New Zealand on December 9 on a flight from the United States. This person tested positive as part of compulsory testing required within 48 hours of operating to the United States. They were transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility yesterday.

Air New Zealand has assured the Ministry of Health that based on information to date, this aircrew member has been compliant with all requirements in place for aircrew operating to and from the United States.

Genome sequencing is yet to be finalised, however, preliminary results show the genome is not closely matched to any New Zealand cases that have been sequenced, and comparison with international samples suggests it originated in the United States.

All other aircrew on the flight have so far returned negative test results and will remain in isolation.

10.00am: Roseanne Liang named one of ’10 directors to watch’

In non-Covid news, New Zealand filmmaker Roseanne Liang has been listed as one of Variety’s 10 directors to watch in 2021. Fresh off the back of directing the big-budget Hollywood film Shadow in the Cloud, Variety called it a “white-knuckle monster movie” that says “a lot about a director’s potential”. Others on the list include Regina King with her directorial debut One Night in Miami and Ricky Staub’s Concrete Cowboy which is set to land on Netflix next year.

For more on Roseanne Liang, The Spinoff’s Michelle Langstone talked to the director earlier this year about cosmic partnerships, her love of fight sequences, and how she inadvertently found herself caught up in a #MeToo scandal. Read it here.

9.30am: US vaccinations to begin this week

Following the footsteps of the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the US Food and Drug Administration has authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use with the first vaccinations to begin in the next 24 hours, the BBC reports. The first doses of the vaccine will be given to the elderly, health workers and emergency crew.


4.10pm: Air New Zealand crew member tests positive for Covid-19

An Air New Zealand crew member has tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in New Zealand on a flight from the United States on December 9.

This person tested positive as part of compulsory testing required within 48 hours of operating to the United States of America, said the Ministry of Health in a statement. They are now self-isolating in their room in a facility used by Air New Zealand for air crew and is being transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

This person is currently asymptomatic (showing no signs of the virus), and had previously tested negative on December. “Our latest test results indicate that this is a very new infection,” said the ministry.

All other air crew on the flight have returned negative results and will remain in isolation, and all crew and staff who have been staying or working at the facility where the person stayed since December 9 are regarded as potential contacts, and will be asked to get tested and self-isolate until their results are known.

“The risk to the general public is considered low,” said the ministry.

3.00pm: NZ and Cook Islands announce travel bubble

Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will be a reality in the first quarter of 2021. The prime ministers of both countries and their cabinets have instructed officials “to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel in the first quarter of 2021”, according to a statement from the office of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

“The arrangement recognises the special ties between New Zealand and the Cook Islands,” said Ardern in the statement. “It will allow people to travel more easily between our two countries, while acknowledging that the priority remains to protect our populations from Covid-19.”

Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown said the arrangement was “the next step towards resuming many aspects of life in the Cook Islands that have been disrupted by Covid-19, including access to health and education, and reuniting family and friends”.

It will be a phased approach, with the first step being quarantine-free access for travellers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand – an acknowledgement of the Cooks’ Covid-free status.

“Quarantine-free access for travellers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand will provide for the movement of people for delivering and accessing essential services, while allowing officials to finalise preparations for a safe return to two-way quarantine-free travel,” Ardern said.




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