13 Nov 2020

Man at mystery-case building turned away from testing twice

10:56 am on 13 November 2020

A man says he was turned away from two Covid-19 testing centres, despite living in the same building as Auckland's new mystery community case.

The Red Pig Restaurant in Auckland.

A young woman who has the virus visited the Red Pig Restaurant on Kitchener Street on Saturday. Photo: Katie Todd

As health officials work round the clock to contain and trace the infection, some people were seen leaving the apartment yesterday - flouting advice to stay isolated.

There is still no indication how the woman in her 20s, who lives and works in the CBD, caught the virus.

Urgent genome sequencing has been done overnight and testing is underway, while 100,000 Aucklanders who work in the CBD are urged to work from home today.

Central to the new case is the Vincent Residences where the woman lives alone - 171 apartments on a leafy downtown street with a shared pool, gym and courtyard, including rentals and Airbnbs.

Shock and confusion played out on the street yesterday evening as people returned home to find a socially-distanced queue, with Covid-19 testing happening in the foyer.

One resident, Will, said he got the heads up earlier in the day from some friends, but wasn't impressed with how health officials have handled the situation.

"Friends of mine phoned me about 2pm when I was out. No Covid tracer notification, no nothing. So I got home at just after 3pm - there were no signs, no people, no nothing. I'd already tried to go through two drive-through testing units. And they were all closed, said that they were 'too full' even though I mentioned I was from this building."

Will said he had been scanning in to all businesses using the Covid tracer app where his address is registered, so he couldn't understand why he wasn't notified.

While he plays by the rules, and plans to isolate until at least a negative test result, other residents had been less well behaved.

Will said, in direct contradiction to advice from authorities, some took the opportunity to flee.

"When I arrived back here, because I was out on the road, I saw people leaving with suitcases and I thought 'what's going on?'" he said.

The young woman who has the virus works at the A-Z Clothing store on High Street.

She developed symptoms on Monday, went for a test on Tuesday and was told to isolate. Health officials say she called in sick on Wednesday, but after talking to her boss put on a mask and went in.

Officials are also tracing her movements over the weekend.

On Saturday, she went to Smith & Caughey's on Queen Street and Red Pig Restaurant on Kitchener Street.

On Sunday and Monday she bought takeaways from Starbucks Queen Street, Sunnytown Restaurant on Lorne Street, and the Gateau House on Queen Street - where the manager Shania Pirini received the dreaded call from health authorities.

Gateau House Queen Street manager Shania Pirini

Gateau House Queen Street manager Shania Pirini Photo: Katie Todd

'"[Health officials were] telling us if we need to get tested, get tested, you know, look after your staff, all that stuff. Obviously I called head office in a bit of a hurry trying to figure out what to do," she said.

The business remained open but she said a deep clean was planned.

Right next door to the Vincent Residence is the Grand Millennium Hotel, used as a managed isolation facility - and evacuated for a couple of hours on Monday night because of a fire alarm.

The government said it was an unlikely source of infection as the woman was already ill - and people from the hotel were cordoned off from the public, wore masks and socially distanced.

But that was disputed by Nathan Thompson, who is doing his two weeks isolation there.

"No there definitely wasn't, not the two metres. Cause people were a bit rattled, it was unexpected," he said.

"There was no actual fencing, that I could see from the carpark exit under the building, no fencing there."

For now Auckland remains at alert level 1 although the city council has moved quickly to close its offices and service centres along with the town hall, central library, and the tepid baths.

People who turned up to last night to the Town Hall to hear the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra where turned away.

The message from authorities is work from home if possible, maintain social distancing and wear masks on public transport.

Few masks were visible on the street last night, but people on the street confirmed they were heeding pleas to scan, scan, scan.

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