Casual contacts of Northland’s new community Covid-19 case have spoken of their shock at learning they could have been exposed to the virus.
Among them was a mum-of-three who said she “freaked out” when she was told she had been in managed isolation (MIQ) at Auckland’s Pullman hotel alongside the 56-year-old, who tested positive a week after leaving.
The woman, who asked only to be identified as Nicole, arrived from Oman in the Middle East with her children aged 11-14 on January 9.
She left the Pullman on Saturday after the family returned negative day-11 tests.
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A day later she received a call from Healthline and was told she was classed as a casual contact and had to get re-tested and self-isolate until another negative test was returned. She said her first reaction was to freak out.
“Because we had already been released you kind of feel you can leave all that behind, but then all of a sudden it’s ‘oh my gosh, no.’”
Nicole said she had no idea who the Northland woman was because guests never saw each other without masks on.
She said she was confident her family had been kept safe and applauded MIQ staff and healthcare workers’ for their professionalism.
But during her stay she was concerned to learn anyone could visit the hotel’s communal outdoor area any time between 7.30am and 7.30pm.
This created the potential for people from different flights and at different stages of their quarantine to mix.
However, Nicole said social distancing was strictly enforced by military personnel and everyone was required to walk in the same anti-clockwise direction, following arrows.
“No-one was stopping, smelling the flowers, nothing. You just finished your round-and-round in circles and then you walked directly out, you changed your mask, you sanitise your hands, then you go up to your room again.”
After the family’s day-11 Covid test, Nicole insisted they all stayed in their room.
Despite spending the weekend with her mother, sister and nephew, only Nicole and her three children were asked to get tested and self-isolate.
The woman, who tested positive, who lives just south of Whangārei, visited 30 businesses before she tested positive for the virus.
Ruakaka resident Paul Goonan was at Fresh Choice Ruakaka at the same time as the woman and received a text alert from the Ministry of Health on Monday asking him to get tested.
“I heard about the positive case on Sunday evening and I had a fair idea I would need to be tested given the number of times I visit Fresh Choice, at least four times a week,” he said.
Goonan, who was in line at the Refinery Testing Station when Stuff caught up with him, said there was a feeling of dismay and angst in the community over the positive case.
He waited more than three hours for a test, as hundreds of people flocked to testing centres across the region on Monday.
He described the situation as an absolute shambles.
Speaking on Monday, he said: “I know staff here are doing all they can to expedite testing but the queues are many kilometres long and the first car park [holding pen] is full. We are told that we will be asked to move into another car park for testing.”
“I am very pragmatic and I hope that I do get a negative test.”
Northland locals have been told to continue following the usual rules to mitigate the possible spread of the virus, such as scanning QR codes and continuing to be vigilant with hygiene.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the woman who tested positive showed just how valuable scanning QR codes, turning on bluetooth and keeping a good record of movements is.
“I’d ask everyone to follow that,” Hipkins said.