Covid-19: Auckland pub owner concerned as patrons are deemed ‘close contacts’ of new coronavirus case

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Pub patrons have been asked to self-isolate and get tested as authorities investigate a Covid-19 case on Auckland’s North Shore.

Were you at The Malt on Friday? Get in touch with Stuff newstips@stuff.co.nz

The owner of The Malt pub in Greenhithe told Stuff he and his staff had only found out about the coronavirus case on Wednesday night.

And a public health expert says Wednesday’s 25 cases show New Zealand might need to change its border policies to reduce the risk and enormous cost of new outbreaks.

Patrons of Greenhithe's The Malt have been asked to self-isolate and get tested after a person with Covid-19 visited on October 16.

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Patrons of Greenhithe’s The Malt have been asked to self-isolate and get tested after a person with Covid-19 visited on October 16.

“The fact it is back in the community is not good,” The Malt owner Malcolm McVicar​ said on Wednesday night.

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A person now confirmed to have been infectious with coronavirus was at The Malt from 7.30 pm until 10 pm on Friday, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) said.

The patron is one of two colleagues of an Auckland port worker with Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health announced another 23 new cases earlier on Wednesday.

18 of these cases are international fishermen who are in managed isolation in Christchurch.

A few close contacts in the Greenhithe pub had been identified and ARPHS was contacting them.

Staff will also be asked to get tested.

Intense global pandemic

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the new community transmission cases and others announced on Wednesday showed it was time to seriously consider enhancing border protection.

That would involve examining the source countries of new Covid-19 cases, and restricting entry or tightening entry criteria for some countries.

“That would be a targeted approach,” the University of Otago​ public health expert said. “It may be worth putting more resources into managing the risk at the point of entry.”

As of Wednesday, at least 11 countries including Ukraine and Russia reportedly had more than 100,000 active coronavirus cases.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker says pubs are high-risk venues for spreading Covid-19 and diligent contact-tracing and testing will be needed to ascertain the scale of the outbreak.

Luke Pilkinton-Ching​/University of Otago, Wellington

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker says pubs are high-risk venues for spreading Covid-19 and diligent contact-tracing and testing will be needed to ascertain the scale of the outbreak.

But some of these countries are the sources of workers in high demand in New Zealand.

Stuff last week reported 440 fishermen from Russia and Ukraine were due to arrive on two flights which fishing companies chartered.

“It’s just a reminder of the complexity of some of the arrangements we’ve got,” Baker said.

The US, India, Brazil, Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, and swathes of Europe also currently have high numbers of active reported Covid-19 cases.

“There’s that ongoing risk of errors happening at the borders, and incursions,” Baker said.

He said targeted criteria, where entry from areas with massive outbreaks could be restricted, would not replace New Zealand’s current border controls, but enhance them.

Urgent contact-tracing

Baker said fast contact-tracing and rigorous testing will be crucial to stopping a new outbreak after the Greenhithe incident.

“This is very different from the Auckland August cluster, where we had an outbreak in the community, and we didn’t know where it came from, or the extent.

The latest community transmission cases are distinct from the Auckland August cluster linked to Mount Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, Baker said.

JASON DORDAY/Stuff

The latest community transmission cases are distinct from the Auckland August cluster linked to Mount Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, Baker said.

“The current one is unusual in that it’s the first time we have had an obvious link to a seaport.”

Baker said the fact a person with Covid-19 visited an indoor venue was of concern, especially if the pub was crowded.

“We obviously hope it wasn’t a super-spreader instance at the pub … The good news is, the contact-tracing system has proven its worth in New Zealand.”

Baker said anybody with coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate and get tested.

Symptoms include a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense or smell, or fever.

“At this stage, it’s about finding the extent of the outbreak,” Baker added.

ARPHS said anybody who attended The Malt on Friday and got sick, even after a negative test result, should self-isolate again, and get tested again.

Household members of pub patrons from Friday should get tested and stay home if the person who was at the pub becomes sick or develops any symptoms.

The health service said people who scanned in to The Malt using the NZ COVID Tracer​ app on Friday evening should receive a notification.

ARPHS said patrons and staff from the Greenhithe pub should look out for symptoms such as a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense or smell, or fever.

A pop-up community centre will be in Greenhithe on Thursday at a location to be confirmed on the ARPHS website.

Meanwhile, ARPHS said urgent care clinics would be open on Wednesday night and offer testing.

Urgent Care Clinics

Shorecare Urgent Care, Smales Farm: 74 Taharoto Road, Takapuna, open 24 hours.

Shorecare Northcross: 948 East Coast Road, Northcross. Monday to Sunday, 8am to 8pm.

East Care: 260 Botany Road, Golflands, open 24 hours.

Takanini Urgent Care: 106 Great South Road, Takanini. Monday to Sunday, 8am to 8pm.

Counties Urgent Care, Papakura: 6-18 O’Shannessey Street, Papakura Monday to Sunday, 8am to 10pm.

Urgent Care Franklin: 149 Manukau Road, Pukekohe Monday to Sunday, 8am to 8pm.



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