Covid-19 coronavirus: New Auckland case involves worker at quarantine hotel

A worker in a Auckland quarantine facility has tested positive for Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health says because the person works at the facility and is not a returnee they are considered a community case.

The case was reported to the ministry this afternoon.

The person has been tested regularly as part of the routine testing for staff in the facility, most recently being swabbed on November 3 and returning a negative test on November 4.

The staff member developed symptoms yesterday and was tested again. That test has returned a positive result, the Ministry of Health said.

People in contact with worker are being traced, isolated and tested.

Two businesses in Auckland have been contacted by Auckland Regional Public Health Service and notified that the worker visited their premises during their infectious period.

A push notification has been sent via the NZ Covid Tracer to everyone who scanned in to these businesses around the relevant time.

The ministry said in a statement that managed isolation workers were regularly tested.

As in other recent cases this worker quickly got tested as soon as they became aware of symptoms. The early identification of cases along with rapid contact tracing assists in stopping any spread of the virus.

Auckland’s Mezze Bar and a Queen St bottle shop were the two businesses where the man had been when he was infected.

Anyone at the Mezze Bar between 11am and 1pm on Thursday is considered a casual contact. They should watch for symptoms, and get tested if they feel unwell, ARPHS said.

A spokesperson from ARPHS said the person dined alone, and no close contacts have been identified at the restaurant.

The case also went to a bottle shop Liquor.Com on Queen St on Thursday for 15 minutes around 1.30pm.

Any people who visited around this time between 1pm and 2pm were also casual contacts and should watch for symptoms, the spokesperson said.

“The case’s close contacts at home and at work have been identified and are all self-isolating and are in the process of getting tested.”

Mezze Bar owner Sally Hindmarsh said she was contacted by health officials just before 7pm with the news.

“First of all I actually thought it was a crank call so I rang them back and got them to email me.”

Once she realised it wasn’t a prank her reaction was one of dismay.

Hindmarsh said she there were people at about six tables so she immediately told them there had been a person at the bar the day before who has since tested positive. She then closed the tapas bar and will spend the rest of the evening carrying out a deep clean.

“We are being very, very vigilant with our cleaning process and it’s all going to be good to go tomorrow.”

She said it wasn’t very busy during the time the person visited yesterday and the advice to anyone who was there, including six staff members, was to get tested if they were worried or started to show any symptoms.

The ARPHS spokeswoman said people who scanned the NZ Covid-19 Tracer app at the Mezze Bar or Liquor.Com during these times should receive a notification, confirming they were there around the same time as the case.

Patrons and staff should look out for symptoms of the virus over the next 14 days. If they develop symptoms they should ring Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or their GP and be tested.

The symptoms of Covid-19 are a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense or smell, or fever.

This is the seventh time – and probably the eighth time – in just over three months where Covid-19 has been passed from inside a managed isolation or quarantine (MIQ) facility into the community.

The others are the Rydges maintenance worker, the Jet Park nurse, the overseas returnee who caught Covid from a shared rubbish bin lid and tested positive after leaving MIQ, the port engineer, and each of the two Sudima nurses. The August cluster is also likely to have come from an MIQ facility, though there is no evidence.

The infection prevention and control measures have been audited twice and are currently being looked at by Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, who is an infectious diseases specialist, in light of recent cases among border-facing workers.

Yesterday Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told the Herald that the use of N95 masks, which protect against potentially infectious air particles, was being considered for these workers.

The Sudima nurses were wearing surgical masks to protect against potentially infectious droplets, but they weren’t using N95 masks.

He said they also might have caught Covid-19 when the Covid-positive mariners were moved from the isolation wing of the hotel to the quarantine wing.

The border control measures were as strong as ever, Hipkins said, despite the several instances in just over three months where Covid-19 has leaked from a border facility into the community.

“They’ve all been well contained very quickly and the system’s worked as it should,” he said.

“We’re not repeating the same mistakes again. Whenever something happens, if there’s a weakness, the weakness is solved.”

But public health experts have called these cases border failures.

“No system can be perfect, but we need to face up to the fact that these are failures of infection control,” epidemiologist Sir David Skegg said.

“How many wake-up calls do we need?”

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