12 Nov 2020

Covid-19: Shock, confusion at new case's apartment block

From Checkpoint, 5:38 pm on 12 November 2020

Shock and confusion are running rife at 106 Vincent St, known as Vincent Residences, where residents have been told to isolate and seek advice about being tested.

Officials today revealed a case of community transmission with an unknown source had been found in Auckland, a student in her 20s, but most residents Checkpoint spoke to shortly after Thursday's 1pm announcement had no idea they were supposed to be isolating. 

The woman became symptomatic on Monday and was tested on Tuesday, but having called in sick went to work wearing a mask after speaking with her manager

With no health officials onsite on Thursday afternoon, it was left to media to break the news to residents who were going about their daily business.

"This is f****** ridiculous," one resident said upon hearing the news for the first time.

For most, the news was still sinking in.

"I'm a bit frightened, because [my partner] and I have got four children we see on a frequent basis and now we're not going to be able to," one resident said.

Vincent Residences building manager Rajeev Chembath was onsite making calls to try to organise a deep clean.

"I just got a call from the health department, that someone's tested positive here," he said.

"They are not disclosing any information, so I asked them if I get the name or the apartment number then I can check the CCTV for any close contacts or anything."

He said he found out about the Covid case's link to the building just before the 1pm media conference.

He would not be drawn when asked if health officials should've been in touch earlier.

"I'm really sorry. I don't have anything more to say," Chembath said.

The apartment building at 106 Vincent St is next door to the Grand Millennium Hotel, one of Auckland's managed isolation facilities.

Another Vincent Residences occupant joked that he might wind up next door in the Grand Millennium next.

He said he thought members of the public had been able to mix with overseas returnees isolating at the Grand Millennium when they were evacuated due to a fire alarm on Monday night.

However, Air Commodore Digby Webb, who is in charge of the government's managed isolation and quarantine facilities said claims people mingled when an MIQ hotel was evacuated for a fire alarm were "not accurate".

"Throughout the situation, NZDF staff, wearing high visibility vests, assisted hotel security and MIQ staff in cordoning all guests in the allocated assembly areas," he said.

"Guests were continuously monitored and contained. Staff ensured returnees were social distancing, face coverings were worn and that bubbles were maintained.

"We are confident the integrity of the managed isolation facility was not compromised and that claims those in managed isolation freely 'mixed and mingled' with members of the public is not accurate."

Regardless, the fire alarm evacuation would not have been the source of transmission for the new case because they had already been symptomatic earlier in the day. 

Checkpoint spoke to a Vincent Residences resident who said common areas meant the virus could have spread easily at the 106 Vincent St apartment building connected to Auckland's latest community case.

"Shared facilities we've got is a gym, a sauna and a swimming pool and it's used on quite a frequent basis," he said.

"I see a lot of people in the pool every day, so I'm a bit worried to be honest."

His next task is contacting family who have visited him since Saturday.

One resident believed they only needed to contact visitors who had dropped by in the last 24 hours. The confusion also caught out another resident spoken to by Checkpoint, who had just moved into Vincent Residences.

"You're definitely the first person we've heard this from," he said.

"We knew about this [isolation facility] behind us, which has all these people in it. We've literally just moved in."

Thursday's news had come as a shock.

"It's just typical. We've had a tough couple of weeks moving in and stuff," he said.

"It would've been good to even have a notice board or something. Are we allowed to know who, or is it just a person in the building?"

For other residents here, the news they must get tested and isolate has ruined travel plans.

"I'm heading to the US at 9.30pm, tonight," one resident said.

"I'm probably going to make some calls. I don't know what the procedure is now that Covid's here.

"Is it legal to have to go and get a test? I don't really know too much."

He was angry about the level of communication from health staff.

"I think definitely someone should be here now telling everyone, [and] walking into the building," he said.

Meanwhile, at the infected woman's workplace, A-Z Collections on High St, the lights were out, and the door shut.

A pop-up testing station was quickly assembled just down the road where some were taking the opportunity to get a swab.