1 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Ministry apologises after identifying infected people linked to clusters

8:38 am on 1 April 2020

A man infected with Covid-19 is upset the Ministry of Health identified him in a list of significant clusters of the disease.

LAKE SUCCESS, NY - MARCH 11: A lab technician begins semi-automated testing for COVID-19 at Northwell Health Labs on March 11, 2020 in Lake Success, New York.

Photo: AFP

The number of such clusters has more than doubled since Monday - there are now 14 across the country and contain anywhere between three and 48 cases. But there's confusion surrounding many of the details.

The Airforce Rugby team, a wedding in Bluff, and a compost company are some of the latest Covid-19 clusters announced yesterday by the Ministry of Health.

It also listed the surnames and location of people linked to two clusters - the information was on its website for several hours before it was taken down.

One of those named, whose only symptom is a mild headache, told RNZ they had no idea they had been publicly identified or that they were part of a group of cases. They were upset by the blunder and the ministry has now apologised to the public for its actions.

In another mistake, the ministry also listed a cluster of six cases connected to Alzheimers Marlborough - a support group for carers and families dealing with dementia.

But Dr Stephen Bridgman from the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, said this was incorrect. There was a cluster of six cases, but only one of them is a member of Alzheimers Marlborough, he said.

"There was a cluster of six cases, one primary and five secondary. Only one of these cases, however, is actually a member of the Marlborough Alzheimers group. They are themselves a secondary case from a primary case related to travel. The other cases are not Alzheimers Marlborough group members."

The DHB said Alzheimers Marlborough group members who were close contacts of the confirmed case were being monitored.

Alzheimers New Zealand chief executive Catherine Hall said staff who were in contact with that client were in self-isolation.

But what is not clear, is who those other five cases are and why the ministry directly linked the cluster to the support group. RNZ asked the ministry to clarify this.

It said the Alzheimers Marlborough cluster was a series of seemingly linked cases that were currently being investigated.

The Defence Force has confirmed a number of people who recently travelled to the United States for an Air Force rugby team trip have also tested positive for Covid-19.

RNZ contacted the other organisations and groups listed on the website as being connected to clusters of Covid-19, but did not receive a response.

Meanwhile, the number of cases at Auckland's Marist College, the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown, the Redoubt Bar in Matamata and at a Hamilton resthome continue to increase.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said clusters were at least traceable, unlike community transmission which was harder to find without additional testing.

"A number of our clusters, while they're growing, we can all trace to where they came from and that tell us whether or not we've got a good handle of where Covid-19 is in our community and how it came to be there."

Ardern said the clusters highlighted the importance of the strict lockdown period.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

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