After Weeks Of No New Cases Of COVID-19 In New Zealand, 2 Arrivals Test Positive : Coronavirus Live Updates "We will almost certainly see cases here again" Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern predicted last week. "That is not a sign we have failed." The two women in the new cases are in self-isolation.
NPR logo After Weeks Of No New Cases Of COVID-19 In New Zealand, 2 Arrivals Test Positive

After Weeks Of No New Cases Of COVID-19 In New Zealand, 2 Arrivals Test Positive

Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's director-general of health, pictured last week, said Tuesday that two women flying in from the U.K. via Australia had tested positive for the coronavirus and had been in isolation since their arrival. Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's director-general of health, pictured last week, said Tuesday that two women flying in from the U.K. via Australia had tested positive for the coronavirus and had been in isolation since their arrival.

Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images

After 24 days with no new cases of the coronavirus, New Zealand now has two. Both are women in the same family and traveled from the U.K. via Australia.

"I can say now both women are self-isolating in the Wellington region, and we're very confident the arrangements that are in place is the best place for them to be right now," Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's director-general of health, said in a news conference Tuesday.

One woman experienced mild symptoms; the other was symptom-free.

The two women had been in a managed isolation hotel in Auckland since arriving in the country. They came to the country on June 7 and traveled to Wellington on Saturday.

Bloomfield said they have been following the country's regulations, including not using any public facilities and not having any contact with anyone during their journey by car from the isolation hotel in Auckland to self-isolation in Wellington. Contact tracing is now being conducted, ranging from the people who were on their flight from Australia to the staff at the airport and isolation facility.

"A new case is something we hoped we wouldn't get but is also something we have expected and planned for," Bloomfield said. "That is why we have geared up, and continue to gear up, our contact tracing at a local level and national capacity and capability as well as having our excellent testing capability so we can respond rapidly."

He added, "We know there are people continuing to come to New Zealand – these are Kiwis returning from countries where there is active community spread of COVID-19. And that is why we have the requirement for managed isolation at the border."

New Zealand may grant "compassionate exemptions" for a person to leave a managed isolation facility if the person has a detailed plan for self-isolation, testing and health checks through the end of the 14-day isolation period.

The country's total number of confirmed cases is now 1,156, and its combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 1,506. The number of recovered cases remains at 1,482, and no one is currently receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health said that more than 558,000 people are now registered users of NZ COVID Tracer, the ministry's contact tracing app.

Here's how it works: Businesses and organizations are given posters with an official QR code specific to that location. People are then encouraged to scan the QR code with the smartphone app to create a diary of where they've gone. Users can sign up to receive alerts if it turns out a person with COVID-19 was at the same location at the same time. If you are identified as a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, you can share your check-ins with the Ministry of Health, helping contact tracers identify others who might have been exposed.

A COVID-19 QR code allows patrons to scan for New Zealand's tracing program as they enter a stadium Saturday in Dunedin ahead of a rugby game. Joe Allison/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Joe Allison/AP

New Zealand is seen as perhaps the globe's biggest success story in controlling the spread of the virus, with the country moving swiftly to stop local transmission and prevent new cases from arriving.

In mid-March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered anyone entering New Zealand into quarantine. A few days later, Ardern stopped travel into the country, in effect banning all foreigners from entering the island nation of 4.8 million. By mid-May, New Zealand had three consecutive days with no new cases, and it allowed most businesses to reopen.

Last week, as the nation began allowing large gatherings such as sporting events and concerts, Ardern warned that New Zealand is not immune to what happens in the rest of the world.

"We will almost certainly see cases here again," she predicted. "That is not a sign we have failed."