Patrons of an Auckland pub have been asked to self-isolate and get swabbed for Covid-19 as soon as possible after being exposed to someone infectious with the virus.
The man was one of many who visited The Malt pub in Greenhithe last Friday. A person who was at the pub between 7.30pm and 10pm later tested positive for Covid-19, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) said last night.
In a message to people who were at the pub between those times, the Ministry of Health said on its website this morning: "Please get tested ASAP and stay at home until result known. Monitor symptoms until 30/10. If you feel unwell call Healthline."
A pop-up Covid testing site has opened until 4.30pm at Wainoni Park, on Churchouse Rd for people seeking urgent tests.
A cafe next-door to Malt, Baked, appears to have gone back into level 3 protocol with staff wearing masks. A table at the front door, where people can place orders, bars people from entering and coming into contact with staff.
There's a large bottle of hand sanitiser and tissues.
Schools in the area have also sent out messages to parents on social media. Hobsonville Point Primary School asked parents to get in touch if they had been to the pub.
"As you will all be aware there has been a case of Covid at the Malt House in Greenhithe.
"If you or anyone in your family was at the Malt House on Friday or have been in contact with anyone who was, can you please get in contact with the school."
Greenhithe School said it was in touch with the Ministry. It told parents to keep sick children home and that if they presented ill during the day, they would be called to collect them.
It asked parents to ensure they used the Covid-19 Tracer App if they visited the school.
"As a school we always take the care and health of our children very seriously.
"We will be reminding children of the hand health routines we have put in place. Our incredible teachers will be adhering to all of our health protocols, to protect our children and our community.
"I will, of course, keep you informed and I am in touch with the Ministry of Education regarding this. We appreciate your support in doing our part to keep our community safe and healthy."
A pub patron who did the right thing and lined up to be tested at a North Shore medical clinic last night has described a shambolic process - a wait of up to three hours and confused, mixed messages from health staff.
The man told the Herald there was a three-hour wait for a test at Shorecare at Smales Farm after health officials urged pub patrons to be tested.
He said he was advised by a nurse that "because you are asymptomatic you don't have to self-isolate and wait for the results". She knew he had visited the bar on Friday night.
"I queried that and said that's the opposite of media advice and she repeated that we didn't need to self-isolate. I rang Healthline who advised that is incorrect - I must self-isolate until tests are back."
Healthline also advised him that he would be treated as a "potential close contact", not a casual contact as reported in media.
"Healthline then said anyone that lives with us must also have a test and self-isolate. I queried this as it is not what is being reported in media. She advised that they were notified a couple of hours ago about this change."
The problems were exacerbated when the wrong Healthline number was sent out in a press release. The correct number is 0800 358 5453
Two new community cases
The new positive Covid case was one of two community cases announced by the Ministry of Health on Wednesday, among 25 new cases across New Zealand.
"The person who went to The Malt and who has later become sick with Covid-19 is one of the cases announced by the Ministry of Health today," ARPHS said in a statement.
A few people deemed to be close contacts of the person were being contacted by the Ministry of Health. Staff will also be asked to get tested.
Urgent care clinics offering Covid swabs were open last night - but some were kept waiting for up to three hours to get a test at the Shorecare medical centre.
"Most people in the pub at this time are considered casual contacts, but are being asked to get tested as soon as possible. They should stay at home in self-isolation until they receive a negative test result," ARPHS said.
"If people at the pub that night get sick however, even after a negative test result, they should self-isolate again, and get tested again."
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced 25 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand on Wednesday, 18 of which were imported cases caught in managed isolation.
Two new community cases were announced, linked to the port worker who tested positive over the weekend.
One of the community cases was previously considered a casual contact of the port worker and worked in the same small firm.
Bloomfield said they spent a few minutes in the same room on Friday morning. They had been tested on Sunday and returned a negative result, but had symptoms on Tuesday and then tested positive.
The second workplace case came back positive on Wednesday morning, Bloomfield said, having previously tested negative but who was retested following the emergence of symptoms yesterday.
Patrons and staff of the bar were told to remain vigilant for symptoms of Covid-19, such as a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense or smell, or fever.
Household members of pub patrons from that night need only get tested and stay home if the person who was at the pub becomes sick or develops any symptoms, or unless directed by Public Health, ARPHS said.
Patrons who scanned the Covid-19 Tracer App at The Malt last Friday should have received a notification if they were at the bar at the same time the positive case attended.
'I was sceptical'
Pub owner Kevin McVicar was among those seeking a Covid-19 swab on the North Shore on Wednesday night.
McVicar told Radio New Zealand about 60 to 80 people were at The Malt throughout Friday night.
He said he was first alerted to the situation when a Ministry of Health employee came to The Malt on Wednesday evening as his phones hadn't been working.
"I was sceptical [at first] because it happened quite quickly and because the news was always reporting that we've had no cases for a while."
McVicar said he messaged all his staff last night to get tested today - eight were working on Friday night.
"I went to get tested last night but the wait was ridiculous and they said 'you're not going to get results quicker by doing it tonight so you might as well do it tomorrow', so I'll be heading into Greenhithe today to get it done."
He said he was told it would be a three-hour wait for a test last night.
McVicar said he was also concerned about Sunday, October 18 when his pub was full for the All Blacks v Australia Bledisloe Cup test.
The Ministry of Health hadn't told McVicar The Malt would require a clean, but he would do it anyway, he said.
McVicar said the ministry told him The Malt can reopen when the staff return negative tests but he does not expect that to happen soon.
Meanwhile patrons responded on Facebook with shock.
"Some of us have elderly/compromised people in the Hithe, so hope this isn't some stupid joke," one person wrote.
The 18 imported cases announced today follow the 11 cases revealed yesterday among Russian and Ukrainian fishing crews, part of the 237 crew who arrived on a flight from Moscow and landed in Christchurch last week.
All were tested via nasal swab pre-departure, and Bloomfield said two people didn't fly out because they had tested positive.
He said he would be surprised if there weren't more cases among the crews, but they were contained in the Sudima Hotel.
"At least one person" must have been infectious on the flight, Bloomfield said, and others could have become infected on the flight of shortly thereafter.
A further five imported cases of Covid-19 were announced yesterday, in managed isolation and unrelated to the recently-arrived fishing crew.
Three unrelated imported cases flew in from London and tested positive on routine day three testing and two cases - flying in from Jordan and Malaysia - were in managed isolation in Auckland; both tested positive on a day three test.
They will both be transferred to the Jet Park quarantine facility.
Infectious diseases expert Professor Michael Baker urged the public to remain vigilant to symptoms of the virus and seek a test if needed.
"It's very important that anyone who thinks they've been in close contact, or even in casual contact, with any case rings Healthline and gets some advice and also is very cautious about any symptoms they develop," he told Newstalk ZB.
Urgent Care Clinics
• Shorecare Smales Farm Smales Farm 74 Taharoto Rd, Takapuna, open 24 Hours
• Shorecare Northcross 948 East Coast Rd, Northcross Mon-Sun 8am - 8pm
• East Care 260 Botany Rd, Golflands Open 24 Hours
• Takanini Urgent Care 106 Great South Rd, Takanini Mon-Sun 8am-8pm
• Counties Urgent Care (Papakura) 6-18 O'Shannessey St, Papakura Mon-Sun 8am-10pm
• Urgent Care Franklin 149 Manukau Rd, Pukekohe Mon-Sun 8am-8pm
For more information or advice on Covid-19, please call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or see the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website.