A student at a University of Canterbury halls of residence tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day the country saw a “sharp rise” in community cases with 810 new confirmed cases.
The Department of Health confirmed the record number of new community cases of Covid-19 on Sunday – including three in Canterbury, two in South Canterbury, two in Nelson-Marlborough and 14 in the Southern District.
The latest daily case count is a 78% jump from Saturday, when there were 454 new community cases. The West Coast is the last district health board area in the country without any active cases.
Dozens of new South Island landmarks were added to the department’s website on Sunday, most of them at popular tourist sites in central Otago.
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Places of close contact included bars and restaurants in Queenstown, as well as a screening of the new Donkey film, a gym in Queenstown, a hotel and a lavender farm in Wānaka.
A member of a Dunedin primary school community had tested positive, according to Musselburgh Primary School principal Rob Taylor, who posted on the South Dunedin school’s Facebook page on Sunday evening.
The school consulted with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, and all families received information by email, he said.
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The University of Canterbury also emailed all pre-registered and returning students around 1pm on Sunday about a positive case.
“You may have heard that there is a confirmed case of Covid-19 from a student at Ilam Apartments. This student arrived [on Saturday]interacted with members of this room community and is now isolating offsite.
The university was working with the Department of Health to identify close contacts of the case.
Some schools have been forced to implement their Omicron plans quickly.
Students and staff who felt unwell were strongly encouraged to self-isolate and “not participate in university activities”.
“Those who lived in dormitory were asked to ‘please phone home and let your whānau know what’s going on’.
University of Canterbury Students’ Association president Pierce Crowley said it was “a bit shocking” to have cases of Covid-19 in the student community, particularly with the week of direction on the horizon.
“But I’m confident that Ilam will be fine…and the university has some good processes in place.”
Crowley said the residence was divided into apartments, so while he thought there would likely be a number of close contacts, he estimated there would be around five to ten people at most.
While orientation week was due to start on February 21, he said it would be very different from previous years.
“Everything will be limited to 100 people, and they will have to show their vaccine passes.
“We want students to have the opportunity to socialize, but we need to keep it as safe as possible.”
The university and the student body would offer help to any student who becomes ill or has to self-isolate, including mental health support, he said.
Ilam Apartments offers residential apartments for ‘independent living’ on the University of Canterbury campus for up to 847 residents, from first year to postgraduate.
A University of Canterbury spokeswoman said the student who tested positive arrived in block J of the Hinau flat at Ilam apartments on Saturday and was self-isolating offsite.
Close contacts have been identified and contacted, and they are safely isolating, the spokeswoman said.
Classes for Semester 1 were due to start on February 21 and some students had not yet arrived at their accommodation, she said.
All university-affiliated residence halls required a valid My Vaccine Pass for all staff, residents and visitors.
Canterbury District Health Board Medical Officer Matthew Reid said the DHB was working with the University of Canterbury.
“This includes identifying anyone who may be a close contact. If you are identified as a close contact, please self-isolate and arrange to be tested as soon as possible.”
Anyone considered a casual contact should keep an eye out for symptoms, Reid said, and arrange to be tested if you develop any, “even if it’s just a little sniffle.”
“Common symptoms of Covid-19 resemble those found with illnesses like the common cold or flu. With Omicron, the most common early symptoms are a scratchy or scratchy throat and a runny nose.
Almost all general practices tested registered patients, or students could go to a community testing center. He advised anyone going to their GP for a Covid test to ring ahead.
University of Canterbury students can also contact the UC Health Center team on (03) 369 4444 to make an appointment.