15 Aug 2020

As it happened: Covid-19 updates on Saturday 15 August

7:44 pm on 15 August 2020

Both the Health Minister and the Director General of Health criticised people who go online to abuse Covid-positive people, Americold staff waiting for test results are getting more worried and experts are concerned for the welfare of those living in rural communities and in the Cook Islands.

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Clockwise top left: the hospitality sector wants more cash; social media abuse is condemned, cool store staff are worried and Suzy Cato is back on TV from Monday. Photo: 123RF / RNZ

Seven new cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the community today, with all but one already linked to the South Auckland cluster responsible for all the previous community cases.

The new case that remains under investigation is in addition to the case yesterday that is also being investigated.

"But in both cases we feel quite confident that they will be linked to the outbreak," Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

The number of active cases in NZ is 56, of whom 37 are from the community outbreak and 19 are imported cases in quarantine.

Bloomfield unhappy with nastiness

Dr Bloomfield has slammed online abuse of people who have Covid-19, reiterating his comment that there was "no shame or blame" in having contracted the virus.

He thanked everybody who had come forward to be tested and those who had responded rapidly to the contact tracing and testing efforts.

"We are hearing reports unfortunately of some online bullying and nasty comments directed towards people who have contracted Covid-19, and to say that is a pity is an understatement, there is no shame or blame in having either this virus or any other infectious diseases."

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the reports of pockets of anger and blame were "completely unacceptable".

He said this was not just disappointing, but also dangerous because people may not get tested if they are fearful of a backlash.

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Ashley Bloomfield, left, and Chris Hipkins. Photo: Pool

Hospitality, retail sectors seek more support

The hospitality and retail sectors are calling for more targeted aid to help them survive a second lockdown.

Hospitality NZ and Retail NZ both welcomed yesterday's announcement of the third extension of the wage subsidy scheme across New Zealand.

However, Hospitality NZ head Julie White said the scheme fell short of providing long-term security to business owners who had lost all their income, such as those in her sector.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Hadford said the retail economy was forecast to suffer a 40 percent hit over the lockdown period and also needed more support.

Shopping mall Sylvia Park in Auckland during level 2.

The retail sector, especially in Auckland, is facing a huge drop in turnover again. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

Cool store staff still waiting

The managing director of the cool store company, Americold, said staff are becoming increasingly anxious at the delay in their test results.

There are now nine Covid-19 cases linked to its Mt Wellington facility.

Richard Winnall said 16 results are negative, but eight people are still waiting to hear since being tested on Wednesday morning.

The first case to be diagnosed in the current cluster is an employee at the facility.

Winnall said Americold's Auckland Airport facility is being cleaned and will soon reopen after all staff returned negative results.

Meanwhile, the ABC is reporting that genome testing is under way on employees at Americold's Melbourne base to see if there are any connections with New Zealand's latest outbreak.

Warning for those in rural areas

Rural people's vulnerability to the coronavirus has prompted a warning from a rural health lecturer.

Yesterday, it was announced that two people had tested positive in Tokoroa in Waikato.

An associate professor of health at Otago University, Garry Nixon, said every effort needs to be made to avoid having the virus spread further into rural communities.

"They're on average our oldest communities. They have overall the lowest socio-economic status in any of the geographic categories and they have the highest proportion of Māori.

"On top of that they often have the poorest access to health services and the health services they have are often pretty stretched."

Appeal from Cook Islands

A community leader in the Cook Islands says they need more guidance from the New Zealand government on what to do in case of a Covid-19 outbreak.

The country has closed its border due to the latest outbreak of the virus in Auckland and Air New Zealand cancelled a flight to the Cook Islands which was due to leave Auckland this morning.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said the Cook Islands has so far had no cases of Covid-19, so the airline wanted to do the right thing for both countries in terms of safety and well-being.

Cook Islands Private Sector Task Force head Fletcher Melvin said there was relief among the community that people were not allowed to travel and while they felt prepared for an outbreak of Covid they would like their health system to be audited by New Zealand's Ministry of Health.

An Air New Zealand airplane wait for passengers at Wellington International airport on February 20, 2020.

An Air New Zealand flight carried freight only to the Cook Islands this morning. Photo: AFP

TV learning

Parents at home with their children may be relieved to know Suzy Cato and Karen O'Leary will return to TV screens on Monday.

The Ministry of Education and TVNZ are bringing back Home Learning TV while Auckland schools are closed.

They say the content includes educational lessons and entertainment suitable for children.

It will air on TVNZ's Duke channel between 9am and 1pm until 28 August.

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