New Zealand has reported its first case of Covid-19 infection discovered outside of a quarantine facility in more than two months.
Health officials said a 56-year-old woman who had recently returned from Europe tested positive days after completing a compulsory two-week period of managed isolation.
The health ministry said the woman had tested negative twice before leaving the isolation facility in Auckland on Jan 13.
She visited a number of places in New Zealand’s Northland region at the top of the North Island after leaving isolation.
The ministry published a list of the locations, including supermarkets, restaurants and a gallery. Contact tracing efforts are continuing urgently.
She started developing mild symptoms two days later, which then got progressively worse. She tested positive on Saturday and has since been isolating at home.
The ministry said anyone who was at the places she visited at the same time was considered a “casual contact” and asked them to stay at home and get tested “out of an abundance of caution”.
Four close contacts of the women have also been tested and are isolating.
In a press conference on Sunday, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said it was too soon to speculate on the “origin or the strain of the infection” but the ministry is “working on the assumption that any case might be a more transmissible variant”.
New Zealand has been widely praised for its response to the pandemic.
The country, with a population of five million, has recorded 1,927 confirmed cases and 25 deaths over the course of the pandemic.