25 Sep 2020

Covid-19: Taupō business fends off abuse after news of cases' visit

7:33 pm on 25 September 2020

Businesses in Taupō say they were shocked when they learned a family who visited them recently had later tested positive for Covid-19, and most have reopened after a deep clean of their premises.

"#LOVETAUPO" sign next to Lake Taupo.

Photo: 123RF

One business said they had received abusive messages and wanted people to follow health rules instead of placing blame.

The family travelled to Taupō between 18 and 20 September - visiting places including DeBretts Spa resort, Tandem Skydiving, KFC, Subway and a Z petrol station - and met with 18 others who had come from five regions including Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton.

Their positive test results were reported on 23 September, and they had been isolating three days prior, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry has so far identified 15 locations the family had been to while possibly infectious, and 35 close contacts, who were now all isolating and being tested.

Taupō DeBretts Spa Resort operations manager Mirela Petrar said the family had only visited the hot springs, and did not use other facilities on 18 September.

The business closed early last night for a deep clean and reopened this morning.

"We are emptying our outdoor pools and indoor pools or the mineral pools. We are emptying every day so that's a normal routine, but last night we've done a bigger disinfection and also in the morning one of our contractors helped us with fogging, which is a deeper disinfection," Petrar said.

Staff members were considered casual contacts and while they were not required to get tested, they had been told to be vigilant, she said.

Petrar was warning people to be cautious because the family had gone to a lot of places.

However, she said what was more concerning to her was that staff members had received abusive messages on the phone and social media.

"It's not our fault. It's not this family's fault... we just have to prepare and follow the plan and to follow the public health instructions," she said, adding that she hoped the affected family would recover well.

The family also visited Taupō Tandem Skydiving on 19 September.

Its chief executive, Hamish Funnell, said he was impressed with the quick actions from health officials and the family had also done the right thing to keep a record of where they had been.

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Taupō Tandem Skydiving Photo: Google Maps

He said at least 16 staff had been tested so far with some returning negative results already, but he was keeping his business shut until all the results were in and a deep clean was done - even if it meant an extra cost.

"We haven't calculated the loss yet. The right thing to do is to shut the doors and suspend the operation until we know for sure that we we can provide a safe service for our customers and [safe environment] for our stuff."

Funnell said the person was asymptomatic when they came for the jump - so the risk should be low. There were 15 people on the aircraft that the positive case went on - including a pilot, seven staff members and six customers.

"We're really just hopeful that these results come back negative and we get a a quick resolution too."

Taupō Mayor David Trewavas said locals were disappointed but were carrying on with their normal lives.

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Taupō Mayor David Trewavas Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

He said they were aware of contact tracing and hygiene practices and he did not expect tourism in the town to be affected.

"It's just been handled very well at this site. It's early days of course, but we're confident that we've got it early and we've dealt to it."

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate is warning Aucklanders about travelling.

"A lot of this will remain on the shoulders of Aucklanders. If they are travelling out of Auckland, they've got to wear face masks, sanitise their hands, and keep proper distance from people, because otherwise we're only one Aucklander away from a spread."

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