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Auckland high school closes again after third student tests positive for Covid

The Guardian logo The Guardian 24/02/2021 Eleanor de Jong in Queenstown
Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

One of New Zealand’s largest high schools has closed again after another student and t wo siblings tested positive for Covid-19.

Papatoetoe high school in south Auckland was closed last week after two students and two parents tested positive. It reopened this week but closed again on Wednesday after a third student tested positive on Tuesday. Two siblings of the students also tested positive later on Tuesday.

a sign on the side of a building: Papatoetoe high school in Auckland has closed two days after reopening owing to a third Covid positive test. © Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock Papatoetoe high school in Auckland has closed two days after reopening owing to a third Covid positive test.

Health authorities have been trying to test and contact-trace all 1,500 students, but were unable to find and test a small number of pupils and their families.

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Late on Tuesday, a day after students returned to school, another tested positive, meaning the school has now been closed again and the entire student body and staff have to be re-tested.

Two siblings who live with the infected student have also tested positive, sending ripples of fear through the south Auckland community about how far the virus could have spread.

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Auckland is now at level 1 after a three-day lockdown, and as yet there has been no alert level change, with director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield saying the outbreak can be managed with contacts at the school and their families self-isolating at home, instead of the whole city.

“I had a formal discussion with my chief science advisor and director of public health – we didn’t see any reason to go up alert levels,” Bloomfield told the AM show on Wednesday.

Health authorities would now start door-knocking when they are unable to locate a contact.

“Everyone in a Papatoetoe high school household must stay away from work or any other school, educational facility or community setting, for example the supermarket or any other place outside the home,” the ministry of health said.

Genome sequencing has found this week’s cases are related to the original outbreak, which is of the more transmissible UK varient.

Locations visited by the latest cases include a Kmart and a Vape shop.

Dr Bloomfield said the latest cases are displaying new symptoms not commonly seen with the virus, including mucle aches and lethargy, and didn’t have any of the usual covid symptoms, such as a cough and sore throat.

The second batch of vaccine has now arrived in New Zealand and more than 1000 border workers have recieved the jab after a nationwide vaccination programme began on Saturday, beginning with border workers, frontline health staff, and the elderly.

“We started our immunisation programme to around 12,000 border and managed isolation and quarantine workers last Saturday, and once completed, we’ll begin vaccinating their household contacts,” Chris Hipkins, the covid-19 response minister said.

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