The owner of a popular local pub in the country's latest Covid-19 hotspot has been forced to close the doors for 14 days after an infected patron spent more than three hours there on a crowded evening.
Kevin McVicar, who runs The Malt in the North Shore suburb of Greenhithe, has been told by the Ministry of Health that his staff have to self-isolate for 14 days since the infected patron's visit on Friday night.
Staff who test negative can return to work — but McVicar said eight of his 16 staff were working that night and they had to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of their test results.
With at least half his staff down and all three managers working on Friday night, McVicar said he is unable to reopen until at least October 31.
"It's not great," said McVicar, saying he still has to pay rent, bank loans and wages, which he hopes may qualify for some kind of subsidy for two weeks.
Friday night was busy for the pub with about 60 to 80 patrons, said McVicar, who said he has not been told anything by the ministry about the infected person.
The Herald understands the patron also visited Burnsco Gulf Harbour on Sunday - but staff and fellow shoppers of the marine supply store are not considered to be close contacts.
"They had no symptoms at the time, their visit was brief with limited interaction with people and no customers of staff are considered to be close contacts," said a spokeswoman.
Health authorities notified store management on Wednesday night of the visit as a courtesy and the store was thoroughly cleaned before reopening yesterday.
The pub closure comes as many Aucklanders start to question whether this is the start of a new cluster which could force the city back into lockdown.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the Government was interested in whether there were any indications the alert level needs to change but the ministry wasn't recommending that at this stage.
He has, however, warned people will need to be diligent, especially at hospitality venues.
That means things like always washing hands, using good cough and sneeze etiquette and staying away from gatherings or going on holiday if you are unwell.
He also encouraged people to continue using masks on public transport saying they shouldn't be embarrassed - he still wears his.
"Dust them back off and when you travel over the next few days wear your masks."
It was also important people keep using the Covid Tracer app, Bloomfield said.
His comments followed the announcement of two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation and news that a student from New Zealand's biggest school, Rangitoto College, was in isolation after a person in their household tested positive for Covid-19.
However, Bloomfield said the risk to the college community was low as the student tested negative and was only at school briefly.
In Greenhithe, a suburb of 9000 where everyone knows everyone, residents are taking extra precautions - reverting to social distancing, wearing masks and flocking to a pop-up testing station in a local park.
Longtime residents Don Haddon and Barbara Tulloch said Greenhithe is a small, closely knit community where the pub is a popular gathering place.
The couple, who have a contractor working on their property who had been at the pub on Friday night and seen him three times since then, were a little concerned but not too worried about the situation.
Another local, Sophie Mills, said she was at the pub on Friday morning and at the weekend, but confident she would be okay.
The mother of three boys, one of whom is 6, said he was disappointed when a school trip to Auckland Zoo was cancelled because of the pub incident.
Darren Forbes, who manages a bakery next to The Malt, was serving customers from a temporary counter in the doorway of the shop.
"The community is not as razzled as I thought they would be," he said.
McVicar, who has run The Malt for five years, said the family-oriented pub was the most enjoyable job he had had in hospitality.
"It will be good to reopen and get back to normal. I don't think normal is a normal thing any more," he said.
Anyone needing a test this long weekend can head to one of five testing stations; at the Northcote Community Testing Centre (16-18 College Rd, Northcote), Northcote Accident and Medical (5 Home Place, off Constellation Drive), Whanau House, Henderson (corner of Edsel and Catherine Sts), Western Springs Community Testing Centre (956 Great North Rd) and the Whanau Ora Community Clinic (25 Druces Rd, Wiri).
For details, call Healthline 0800 358 5453 or visit arphs.health.nz/covid19test
- Addtional reporting: Kim Moodie