Airborne Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant within Tightly Monitored Isolation Facility, New Zealand (Aotearoa)

Emerg Infect Dis. 2021 Dec 29;28(3). doi: 10.3201/eid2803.212318. Online ahead of print.


In New Zealand, international arrivals are quarantined and undergo severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 screening; those who test positive are transferred to a managed isolation facility (MIF). Solo traveler A and person E from a 5-person travel group (BCDEF) tested positive. After transfer to the MIF, person A and group BCDEF occupied rooms >2 meters apart across a corridor. Persons B, C, and D subsequently tested positive; viral sequences matched A and were distinct from E. The MIF was the only shared location of persons A and B, C, and D, and they had no direct contact. Security camera footage revealed 4 brief episodes of simultaneous door opening during person A's infectious period. This public health investigation demonstrates transmission from A to B, C, and D while in the MIF, with airborne transmission the most plausible explanation. These findings are of global importance for coronavirus disease public health interventions and infection control practices.

Keywords: COVID-19; Delta variant; New Zealand; SARS-CoV-2; airborne transmission; coronavirus disease; respiratory infections; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; viruses; zoonoses.

Publication types

  • Review