New Zealanders Dion Hall and Bex Joblin were among the last to say “I do” on Rarotonga, on March 19. The Hawke’s Bay couple had married at the Edgewater resort, in front of 25 family and friends – most of whom left the country a couple of days later.
But Hall and Joblin and their five children travelled back to New Zealand on Air New Zealand flight NZ45 leaving Rarotonga on March 25 – the same flight that carried a woman now diagnosed with the coronavirus.
The Nelson supermarket worker in her 30s tested positive this week, as New Zealand came out of lockdown. It’s the first new case in three weeks in the Nelson-Marlborough area.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health announced the woman had arrived from Cook Islands on March 26. And Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board said it was investigating how the woman got the virus, and treating it as a travel case: that she got it overseas, or while travelling.
Nelson-Marlborough’s clinical director of public health Dr Stephen Bridgman said this did not necessarily mean that the case originated in Cook Islands.
A spokesperson added: “It’s not unprecedented that cases are confirmed that length of time after travel. Sometimes people are asymptomatic (and so don’t get assessed or tested) for some time.”
Bex Hall expressed surprise that it had taken so long for the woman to be diagnosed. “That was a whole month ago,” she said last night.
“We all feel fine and as far as I'm aware, it’s a two-week incubation period. So I would presume that she got it once back in Nelson.
“The plane seemed to only group families together, there were empty seats.
“No social distancing happening before we got on the plane though – huge lines of people waiting for the flight.
“Auckland Airport was completely deserted though, and they only allowed five people from the plane at a time, we waited over an hour to get off … then our temperature was taken in the airport on arrival. Pretty thorough measures in place I think.”
Cook Islands Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Herman is in New Zealand, liaising with health authorities there about support for Pacific peoples and reopening the borders.
“I note that a young woman in Nelson diagnosed with Covid-19 on 29 April 2020 arrived in Auckland on 26 March 2020, before she travelled on to Nelson,” Dr Herman said.
“She had departed Rarotonga five weeks prior to being diagnosed, which is well outside the recognised 14-day incubation period for Covid-19.”
Cook Islands was declared Covid-free on April16, and Dr Herman said Te Marae Ora has conducted more than 1,300 tests in Rarotonga – all of them have tested negative for the virus.
“I will be contacting public health officials in New Zealand to investigate any evidence for a link to the Cook Islands, although based on current information I consider the link tenuous.”