A “significant cluster” of Covid-19 cases has reportedly broken out at the closed religious community of Gloriavale on the South Island’s West Coast.
It is understood that members were now self-isolating within the Christian community, which has about 600 members on sprawling land at Haupiri, 60km inland from Greymouth.
The apparent outbreak comes after the Ministry of Health yesterday reported seven more people have died with Covid-19, signalling a grim milestone as the country’s death toll since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 passes 100.
The latest deaths bring New Zealand’s Covid-19 death toll to 105.
A nearby resident of Gloriavale told the Greymouth Star newspaper they had been informed of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“They’re just good neighbours, they let us know they had Covid, that they were isolating and asked us to keep our distance,” the resident said.
When approached by the Herald for comment, Gloriavale was tight-lipped.
“We’re not interested in speaking with the press,” a member said.
In a response to Herald inquiries about the Gloriavale outbreak, a Ministry of Health spokesman said: “We are aware of many exposure events related to faith-based gatherings but do not comment on individual ones due to privacy, unless there is significant and widespread risk to community public health.”
Gloriavale had been slow to get the Covid-19 jab, with vaccinations not being part of their belief system.
But when the Government introduced vaccine mandates for the education and health sector late last year, threatening to close Gloriavale’s on-site schools, costing them funding, it appears senior leadership had a change of heart.
Gloriavale’s teachers and midwives later accepted their Covid vaccinations.
There was a slight drop in cases yesterday, with 18,699 confirmed newCovid cases – but 853 people were reported in hospital with the virus. Seven were in ICU or high dependency unit care.
Three of the seven deaths occurred in the Auckland region, and one each in Bay of Plenty, MidCentral, Wellington and Canterbury.
The latest locations of the cases in hospital are: Northland: 19; North Shore: 172; Middlemore: 199; Auckland: 208; Waikato: 69; Bay of Plenty: 28; Lakes: 12; Tairāwhiti: 3, Hawke’s Bay: 23; Taranaki: 10; MidCentral: 18; Whanganui: 2; Hutt Valley: 19; Capital and Coast: 33; Wairarapa: 5; Nelson Marlborough: 3; Canterbury: 22; and Southern: 8.
The average age of those needing hospital care is 59.
The location of all new community cases are:Northland (670), Auckland (6077), Waikato (1700), Bay of Plenty (1247), Lakes (496), Hawke’s Bay (730), MidCentral (667), Whanganui (162), Taranaki (462), Tairāwhiti (377), Wairarapa (169), Capital and Coast (1545), Hutt Valley (937), Nelson Marlborough (424), Canterbury (2028), South Canterbury (118), Southern (848), West Coast (32); while a further 10 have been listed as “unknown”.
Last week, medical and virus experts said they feared the true extent of the Omicron strain’s spread in New Zealand might not be known because some Covid-19 positive people weren’t recording their test results.
“If you test positive with a rapid antigen test, it’s essential you register your positive result,” the ministry said.
A strain on the health system is beginning to show, according to doctors around the country.
At Waitematā DHB, the entire legal team had been redeployed to support security guards, anaesthetists at Auckland Hospital were working as phlebotomists and taking blood, while members of the executive leadership team were working in the emergency department, making beds, answering calls and clearing linen skips.
Regional chairman of the Australia and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Dr Craig Carr said the demand on intensive care was a real challenge, but teams were holding up reasonably well.
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