A person has tested positive for Covid-19 in Blenheim.
Little is known about the community case – the first in the South Island in nearly a year – but they're thought to have come to the attention of Nelson Marlborough District Health Board officials late on Friday.
The person, understood to be a young man, is now isolating awaiting the results of further testing. It’s understood the case is considered to be low risk.
The Ministry of Health said the individual flew from Rotorua and arrived in Blenheim on October 21. They sought a test upon arrival after developing a sore throat.
The initial test, including a follow-up swab, returned a weak positive result. The Ministry said the public health assessment is that the risk appears low given the individual’s likely late stage of infection.
So far, initial case interviews have identified a small number of close contacts, who have been contacted and are currently isolating with tests arranged.
It’s understood the public health response is being stepped up in Blenheim. An emergency response unit has arrived at Horton Park where a testing centre is located.
Mayor John Leggett said he’d had “a reasonably early heads up from the police [about the positive case] this morning.”
“I've since had confirmation come through from the PHO and the people representing them. You plan for these sorts of things because the possibility of a community case can occur, and it has.
“We [the Marlborough District Council] have plans in place in the event that an alert level change occurs in any way. We have to consider parks, libraries, and pools. I suppose an alert level change depends on the person's contact tracing, and whether the person has been out and about in the community.
“I certainly hope there's not a level change. I think right across the region employers and people in businesses have had in the back of their mind that they might have to respond pretty quickly to a change."
Latest data from Nelson Marlborough Health shows 84.4 per cent of the people in the area it covers have had their first vaccination, and 72.3 per cent are fully vaccinated. The Marlborough region itself is on 90 per cent first doses.
Chamber of Commerce general manager Pete Coldwell said putting the region into alert level three would have a major impact on local businesses.
"From a business perspective that is a major issue and will really hit business hard. That is the last thing anybody would want. It depends entirely on the Government's response to this case. Every single region has been concerned that this might happen to them."
Experts had warned it was only a matter of time before the infectious Delta variant of the virus, which has plagued the upper North Island, particularly Auckland, spread south.
The last community cases of Covid-19 in the South Island were two nurses who worked at the Sudima Christchurch Hotel, where hundreds of Russian mariners were isolating.
The pair, close contacts of one another, tested positive on November 2 and 3.
At 1pm on Friday, health officials said there were 129 new community cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand – 120 in Auckland and nine in Waikato.
They later confirmed two new cases had been identified in Northland.
Suburb vaccination rates can be found here.