Officials at the New Zealand Ministry of Health have put an immediate pause on flights from Western Australia after new positive COVID-19 cases were recorded in Perth.
A worker in his 20s at a Perth isolation facility tested positive for COVID-19 as part of routine testing this weekend. Two of the man’s housemates have also tested positive.
“Scheduled direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand should be immediately paused while a further assessment is carried out, including a further assessment and information from Australian health officials,” a Ministry of Health statement said in light of the news.
A flight from Perth due to land in Auckland at 5.50am this morning was stopped in its tracks due to the new information.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the positive case, a security guard at the Pan Pacific Hotel, had been at work between April 24-26 and previously tested negative for the virus.
He had already received his first dose of the vaccine by the time his result was returned positive.
He was reportedly working on the same floor two positive overseas cases were spending their isolation period.
“On his first day off, Tuesday, 27 April, is the day our health authorities expect he may have become infectious in the community,” Mr McGowan said.
“I understand on this day he dropped friends to their workplace and went to a friend’s house. We understand later that evening he developed symptoms which he thought were related to his COVID Pfizer vaccine.
“On Friday morning he visited a mosque for about 30 minutes and then went to a hotel quarantine facility for his weekly PCR test under the requirement we have in place for hotel quarantine workers. Test results came back and were confirmed to be positive.”
WA officials are currently weighing up whether to enforce another lockdown as contact tracers attempt to locate the cause of the spread. The state enforced strict mask-wearing rules after threats of a new cluster emerged, requiring all citizens in Perth and the neighbouring Peel region to cover up while indoors and on public transport.
“We are effectively in a holding pattern and I hope we can avoid going back into lockdown,” Mr McGowan said.
“What has helped enormously is that, due to the interim restrictions we have had in place since Tuesday, they have significantly reduced movement in the community and everyone has been wearing masks.
“That gives us some confidence that the risk of transmission is significantly lower than it would normally be. These factors and the fact we have picked up this case as early means we can avoid moving into a lockdown at this point. But it is possible this could change by tomorrow or the day after.”