New Zealand has reported its first coronavirus case outside of a quarantine facility in more than two months, although there was no immediate evidence the virus was spreading in the community.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said Sunday the case was a 56-year-old woman who recently returned from Europe.
Like other returning travelers, she spent 14 days in quarantine and twice tested negative before being returning home on Jan. 13. She later developed symptoms and tested positive.
He said health officials will conduct genome testing but are working under the assumption that the case is a more transmissible variant of the virus.
He said they are investigating to see whether it is possible she caught the disease from another returning traveler who was staying in the same quarantine facility.
New Zealand has eliminated community transmission of the virus, at least for now. Bloomfield said officials are ramping up contact tracing and testing efforts and hope to have more information about the case in the coming days.
New Zealand, one of the most successful developed nations in controlling the spread of the pandemic, last recorded a community coronavirus transmission on Nov. 18, according to the Health Ministry website.
A tough lockdown and geographical isolation helped it virtually eliminate the novel coronavirus within its borders.
The country of 5 million people has had only 1,927 confirmed cases. But with the pandemic raging globally, more people are returning to New Zealand with infections, including the new variants, raising concerns the virus may spread in the community again.
Pressure has been mounting on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government to vaccinate the population, but New Zealand has said the majority of its population would only be vaccinated in the second half of the year.