The partner of one of the first people to test positive for the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus in the Waikato region has spoken about being vilified and victimised by the community after it was falsely claimed they were connected to gangs and drug dealing.
Parts of the district were forced back into alert level 3 restrictions on October 3 after cases of the highly contagious strain of the virus were confirmed in Raglan and Hamilton.
Further restrictions for other areas followed after cases emerged in Karapiro and Kawhia.
The Herald revealed days later that the Hamilton index case was someone with a long criminal history of drug dealing and has gang affiliations.
Sources said the person had known connections to Kawhia and Raglan.
The partner of the first man to test positive in Raglan says he was wrongly tarred with the same brush and has spoken out in a bid to clear his reputation.
She contacted the Herald after reading the story of one of the Auckland women accused of travelling to Northland without a legitimate travel exemption and later testing positive for Covid-19.
That woman rejected claims she lied, withheld information and tried to avoid authorities and was desperate to shut down rumours she and her travelling companion were sex workers or connected to gangs.
The partner of the Raglan man said when she read the story she cried and went through "a myriad of mixed emotions".
"From relief that we are not alone in our struggle, to sadness that we are not alone in our struggle, to angry that we are not alone in our struggle - because it is a story that reads similar to ours and I want to fight back," she said.
The woman said her partner went to the doctor as soon as he started experiencing symptoms and asked for a test.
He is an essential worker and deals with the public so he wanted to get tested as soon as possible.
"We were shocked when we received the positive result," said his partner.
"He immediately went into self isolation along with myself and my two sons."
The whole family were transferred to a managed isolation facility in Auckland the next day and completed their two week quarantine.
The woman said she and her partner were both "open and honest" with public health officials even they were "scared and unsure" about the situation.
"Not only having only to contend with that - we were then horrified of the misinformation going around on social media which was rife with rumours, gossip and hearsay," she said.
"And the witch hunt that was then pursued by locals villainising us and actively trying to find out who we were which made us now feel bullied and victimised as well - and even more scared during this unsettling and already scary time."
The woman said the family felt emotionally and physically unsafe in their home.
She said the "onset of media attention" on Raglan made the couple feel "villainised".
"And associating us with gangs and drugs - my mental health was suffering and I no longer wanted go home or live in my hometown."
She said she and her partner were subjected to "persecution" because of "ignorance and the scaremongering" caused by the "misinformation" in the media about their case.
"We are not gangsters, neither have we been in contact with any gang members to have been able to infect them - and the proof is in our cluster.
"None of them are gang members. Not a single one.
"We were shocked and perplexed as to where this information originated from."
She said due to rumours about her family she "feared leaving the house" and locked herself in so she could not be judged or "stigmatised".
She worried that if other people were treated the same it would cause reluctance in the community around testing when people were sick.
The woman said despite her ordeal she had found the "strength and courage to come forward" and share her experience.
"[I am] hoping to make a difference in changing social attitudes and the public's perceptions - and like the campaign promotes, help unite together in our fight against Covid instead of fighting with each other."