Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland case: Latest updates from Chris Hipkins, Ministry of Health – CBD workers asked to stay home

* Auckland CBD workers encouraged to work from home today – public transport users told to wear masks
* Results of genomic testing due this afternoon – this will reveal if latest case linked to any in managed isolation
* The case is an AUT student who has not been to class – but did go into work at A-Z Collections on High St and served customers while she was sick
* She visited five other locations between last Saturday and Monday (see list below)
* Follow our up-to-the-minute live coverage in our blog below – and listen live to Chris Hipkins at 7.05am on Newstalk ZB

The boss of a woman at the centre of the new Covid outbreak has rubbished claims he told her to work despite her feeling sick.

Officials claim that the woman – aged in her 20s who worked at A-Z Collections in High St in a role serving customers – tried to phone in sick to her job at an Auckland CBD store but ended up coming in and wearing a mask.

The situation has been criticised by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who says he is frustrated and disappointed by the incident.



It has led to a call for Auckland CBD employees to work from home today.

The woman became symptomatic on Monday, and was tested on Tuesday.

But despite receiving advice to isolate, officials have alleged she talked to her manager, and went to work on Wednesday, wearing a mask.

But the co-owner of the store – who would not give his name – told the Herald those claims were not true. And he has called in the lawyers.

“We never knew staff [member] was sick – she never said she had a test,” he said.

“We never knew she felt unwell. We just want to tell the truth.”

7.05am: Chris Hipkins, 7.10am: Business NZ CEO Kirk Hope

The man said he and his wife – who is the store’s other co-owner – have now contacted their lawyer over the claims.

He also said they had been targeted by abusive messages to their cellphone and email account.

“We feel really unsafe,” he said.

As well as threats, they had been sent messages telling them to “go back to China”, while other messages included their home address.

Goff told NewstalkZB the latest case was a big problem and the worst thing that could’ve happened.

He said Auckland could beat Covid again, but Aucklanders needed to follow the rules, and work collectively.

The mayor also told RNZ “it is not great news”.

“The worst thing that happened in this case is the woman having been told to isolate, then told by a store manager to come into work. That is frankly unbelievable.

“I just can not understand that. It defies common sense. There is a lesson in that, and you think that is a lesson people didn’t need to learn.”

Shortly after Goff hit out, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra confirmed that their scheduled concert at the Auckland Town Hall would be performed behind closed doors.

On its Facebook page, the orchestra stated: “For the safety of our audience tonight’s concert performance will be CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC.

“The APO has just received advice from the Director General of Health regarding the Auckland CBD community case that was reported today.

“The orchestra will still go on stage for The New Zealand Herald Premier Series: Poetry & Passion performance and this will be livestreamed on the APO website and Facebook page. Radio NZ will also broadcast as originally planned.”

Earlier, health bosses said people who work in downtown Auckland are being asked to do their jobs from home if possible today.

Director of public health Caroline McElnay said there has been a detailed interview with the confirmed case.

The woman is in a customer-facing role in their job at A-Z Collections on Auckland’s High St, McElnay said.

She called in sick to work after being told to isolate but after a conversation with her manager went to work and wore a mask.

The woman’s three close contacts are colleagues and friends and are being moved to a isolation hotel. They are all reported to be feeling well.

The woman also took a number of “very short” Uber trips to work and drivers are being contacted and asked to isolate.

The woman’s movements have been released.

These include:

Smith and Caughey’s on Queen St on Saturday November 7 (3.50–6pm).

Red Pig Restaurant, Kitchener St on Saturday November 7 (6-8.30pm)

Takeaways from Starbucks Queen St and from Sunnytown Restaurant on Sunday November 8 (11.30-11.45am).

Takeaways from The Gateau House on Queen St on Sunday November 8 (6.40-6.50pm)

Takeaways from Starbucks Queen St and from Sunnytown Restaurant, Lorne St, on Monday November 9 (11.31-11.40am)

Anyone in the Auckland area and anyone throughout New Zealand should stay home if they have cold and flu symptoms, she said.

Out of an abundance of caution, Aucklanders who work in the CBD should work from home on Friday, said McElnay, and if you have to go into that area you should wear a mask.

The woman’s swab is being processed overnight for genome sequencing and has been received by ESR.

An incident involving a fire alarm – where people in managed isolation mingled with apartment guests where the woman lives – is not likely to be a source of infection for the case as it was at 8pm on Monday night.

Alert level move?

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the situation was different for the last outbreak when Auckland went back into alert level 3 – but said that wasn’t to say they wouldn’t review alert levels today.

He said it appeared the case was currently contained.

Hipkins asked that employers should “go out of their way” to make sure their staff could stay home if sick. He said it was disappointing the woman’s manager told her to go to work despite the health official’s advice to her to stay home.

McElnay said there was no information at this stage the woman or her contacts moved outside of the CBD.

Hipkins said he was comfortable that the guidance they were giving today was the best they could give on the information they had.

There was no danger of an “enhanced risk” outside CBD.

Hipkins, who is also Education Minister, said he was conscious it was exam season and his advice to NZQA is to continue exams as normal at this stage as he was aware exams were usually in a socially distanced setting.

Anyone with an exam today should still go until told otherwise, said Hipkins.

Hipkins said it was speculation to link the source to the woman living and working near to a managed isolation facility but it would be part of the investigation.

“We’re asking people to do the right thing here.”

Hipkins said there would likely be more information today.

McElnay said the test was taken quite late on Tuesday night.

Hipkins said he hoped there would be more QR scanning because it meant they could notify people quickly if they might have been exposed.

“My message to everyone is you don’t know when this might come up. So keep scanning.

“The QR code keeps everyone safe.”

He said “we are a very, very mobile people” so no one could assume that because the bulk of the cases were in Auckland, the rest of the country wasn’t at risk.

The Government hasn’t drawn a line on a map defining the bounds of the CBD but are asking employers to exercise caution.

Those who live in the CBD should minimise their movements and contacts.

Hipkins has had several conversations with the Prime Minister, who is in Wellington. If Cabinet needs to meet today, it would happen digitally.

Shutting down the heart of the city reflected the fact that we’re not dealing with widespread community cases, said Hipkins.

And the measures might help stop more draconian measures, he said.

The woman, in her 20s, developed symptoms on Monday and was tested on Tuesday. The results were confirmed this morning.

The woman lives alone in a Vincent St Residences apartment, did not visit the supermarket while infectious and had limited movements around the city.

The manager of The Gateau House cake shop on Queen St said they had just been told by health officials that a woman who recently tested positive to Covid-19 had visited her cake shop on Tuesday.

However, they had not been told “too much” information as of yet.

She said apparently the woman had not spent too long in her store.

She said her staff who had been working on Tuesday would now get Covid-19 tests and stay home until they got their results.

Her cake shop could stay open in the meantime but would be undergoing a thorough clean.

“We will disinfect our area, get staff to wear masks, provide hand sanitiser and follow precautions and do our part,” she said.

Manager of the Red Pig, Yeain Nam, is waiting to hear whether the restaurant can stay open.

The restaurant has a Covid-19 tracer QR code available and a sign-in book for those who don’t have the app.

She says she’s not sure if all customers used the app.

Last Saturday night the restaurant had between 60-80 customers, says Nam.

On busy Saturday nights, the restaurant can see up to 100 customers.

A staff member at the Sunny Town Chinese restaurant on Lorne St said she had “only just heard” that a woman who tested positive to Covid-19 had visited her restaurant.

“We are surprised,” she said.

She said her restaurant had not been contacted by health authorities.

She was now set to call her manager and plan what response the restaurant would take.

But she said her staff would be looking to wear masks and potentially distance restaurant tables immediately.

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