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Covid-19 coronavirus: Auckland CBD staff should work from home if they can, new case’s movements revealed

People who work in downtown Auckland are being asked to do their jobs from home if possible tomorrow, health bosses say.

It comes as authorities revealed that the new Covid-19 community case dealt with customers while working at a central Auckland store.

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 border 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 pm – 6 pm).

•Red Pig Restaurant, Kitchener St on SaturdayNovember 7 (6-8.30pm)
• Takeaways from Starbucks Queen St and from Sunnytown Restaurant on Sunday November 8 (11.30-11.45 am).

• 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 tomorrow, 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 tomorrow.

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 was 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 risk there was an “enhanced risk” outside of the 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 he was aware exams were usually in a socially distanced setting.

Anyone with an exam tomorrow should still go tomorrow 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 tomorrow.

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, they should minimise their movements and contacts.

Hipkins has had several conversations with the Prime Minister, who is in Wellington, to keep her tomorrow. If Cabinet needs to meet tomorrow, 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.

Health bosses announced at 1pm that there was a new case of Covid-19 in the community with no obvious link to travel, the border or managed isolation.

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 sanitizer 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.

Earlier this afternoon Hipkins said there was not enough information to decide whether a shift in alert levels was needed.

Officials were working behind the scenes to go back through the woman’s movements to both identify contacts and find a link to the border.

Genome sequencing has also been expedited and the results are expected tomorrow afternoon – which will help show whether the case is linked to other confirmed cases.

Hipkins urged Aucklanders and the rest of New Zealand to remain calm and follow instructions, including:

• if you visited A to Z Collection at 61 High St or live in or have visited Vincent St Residences between Saturday November 7 and today to isolate and get a test.

• isolate and get a test if you have cold or flu symptoms.

• wear a mask on public transport, planes and in places you can’t physically distance.

• maintain good hand hygiene and sneeze etiquette.

• scan into every place you go with the Covid Tracer app.

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