‘I ate out of same plate but don’t need testing?’: Dad of Covid close contact astounded at advice

A Northland man says he’s astounded by health officials, who told him he didn’t need to isolate despite his daughter interacting with a Covid-infected woman at her cafe.

The man’s daughter was certain she served a 56-year-old woman – who is New Zealand’s newest Covid-19 case after being infected with the virus’ South African strain – in a Helensville cafe on Tuesday.

But when the man phoned Healthline to report his daughter’s story, he said the health adviser told him there was no need for him and his wife to get a test or to isolate.

That was despite them living in the same house as their daughter.

“She sits next to me when we have dinner, I actually tried some of her take away food the other evening,” the man said.

“I asked: ‘I ate out of the same plate as her and I don’t need to get tested’?”

“And the (health adviser) said: ‘No, yous (sic) don’t, you are low risk’.”

“I said: ‘Wow’.”

However, Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker backed the health teams, saying they considered a broad range of factors when giving advice.

Authorities now knew the likely origin of the current Northland Covid case and it so far appeared to be a more contained outbreak, he said.

That meant it was probably reasonable to concentrate resources on testing close contacts of the infected woman rather than seeking to mass test everyone, he said.

The Ministry of Health also said it had interviewed the woman who tested positive to Covid and she said she did not have a close interaction with anyone at either of the two cafes she visited in Helensville.

That meant the young waitress was likely a casual contact and her parents didn’t need to be tested, a Ministry of Health spokeswoman said.

It came as the new Covid-19 case was the first in the community since November 18 and had sent health officials scrambling to identify how widespread the outbreak was.

The woman with the virus was earlier released from an MIQ facility – Auckland’s Pullman hotel – on January 13. Later developing Covid-like symptoms, she was tested on January 22.

The woman was also found to have visited about 30 Northland locations since January 13, having regularly used the Covid Tracer App to track her movements.

Those locations included a visit to Helensville’s The Ville Turkish Cafe on Tuesday.

The man did not say which cafe his daughter worked at but said she had come into contact with the woman in Helensville on Tuesday.

He said that after his daughter saw her cafe appear on the list of places visited by the woman, she “racked her brain”.

“She goes, ‘Oh my god, I know who it is,” the man said.

He said his daughter remembered interacting with the woman and learning she had recently returned from overseas.

But after learning of the new community case and failing to hear from health officials or her daughter’s workplace, the man and his daughter called Healthline.

After a more than two-hour wait, the health adviser picked up and listened to their story, but told the man and his wife they could go about their lives as normal because they weren’t showing symptoms of Covid-19.

“So I can go out for coffee in the morning and my wife can go to work,” the man asked.

“And she goes, ‘Yes you are at low risk’.”

The Healthline adviser did tell their daughter to get tested, however.

She also read out a code the man’s daughter could use at the drive-in testing site to ensure she was considered a close contact and her test results were returned as a priority, the man said.

However – after the family endured another three-hour wait at the testing site – the health teams doing the tests had no idea what to do with the code, the man claimed.

“They all looked at each other scratching their heads and said, ‘This makes no sense, this code’,” the man said.

After media enquiries by the Herald, the man said health teams officially called his daughter and advised her she was a close contact and needed to isolate.

They asked his daughter to go back to the cafe tonight to check security footage and then report to them how closely she interacted with the infected woman.

University of Otago’s Baker agreed that because of the more contained nature of the current Covid case the first priority should be to test the waitress rather than a wide network of “contacts of contacts”.

However, the woman’s father said the episode had left him aghast.

“We’ve been exposed for nearly six days, I’ve been to so many places – it should be compulsory that we’re tested,” he said.

Despite being told they didn’t have to, he said he and his wife were now isolating given how “rampant” the new virus strain was overseas.

“It feels like it’s up to us ourselves, if we don’t be responsible this country is stuffed,” he said.

“Whoever is running this hasn’t got a bloody clue.”

Source: Read Full Article