Covid 19 coronavirus: Positive case on Wellington-Auckland flight; school hostel, hotel closed

A Waikato school hostel and a hotel have closed after a positive Covid-19 case potentially exposed members of the community on a flight.

The small towns of Otorohanga and Kawhia are now on high alert after learning about the flight.

Today, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed the casual contact who was on the same flight as the infected Defence Force staffer and went to a meeting in Kawhia was feeling unwell.Bloomfield said people at that meeting should be vigilant for any symptoms.

“We’re expecting the test result on that person later today,” he said.

The meeting, the Taharoa C annual general meeting, was held on Saturday. The person who attended the 150-strong gathering was due to be tested this morning and the incorporation was advising attendees to be cautious and keep track of their movements while they awaited results.

In a statement the committee management said all shareholders signed a register before the meeting started.

That person was identified as a casual contact and not seated in close proximity to the infected traveller.

Otorohanga College today posted on Facebook page that a contagious person was on a flight out of Wellington to Hamilton with a member of the local school community. But the Waikato DHB said the flight was actually from Auckland to Wellington on November 5.

It is understood the locals then attended a meeting which was also attended by students from the college.

Some people then attended a hui in Te Awamutu on Sunday. Those attending the hui, run by the Maori Women’s Welfare League, have been told by health authorities they do not need to isolate or have a test.

The Waikato DHB said its public health team is in contact with Otorohanga College as the school had raised concerns.

The person on the flight was considered a casual contact with minimal risk of exposure.

They have been tested and the result is pending.

“As, based on current information, the students would be considered casual contacts of someone who was also a casual contact, the DHB’s public health team has advised the school it may continue to operate as normal at this time.

“Anyone who has concerns or develops symptoms is asked to contact Healthline (0800 358 5453) and/or seek a test.”

The college, about 60km east of Kawhia, where many school families live, has closed its hostel, and the Kawhia Hotel has closed temporarily.

Kawhia School this morning remained open saying the school had made contact with the Covid centre which advised only close contacts needed to go into isolation and get tested.

Otorohanga said the medical officer of health supported “our precautionary response to close the hostel temporarily”.

“The expectation is that the hostel re-open Wednesday morning. If you are worried or are symptomatic please get tested.”

Otorohanga Mayor Max Baxter said he’d been told some close contacts of the infected person on the flight may have gone to a number of gatherings in the region.

“We know there’s been a couple of gatherings in Taharoa and Kawhia, but I don’t know at this stage how many people were involved, or whether any of those people were infected.”

He said they were awaiting instructions from the ministry about what to do next. He understands some people then went to cafe after one of the gatherings in Kawhia.

A Kawhia Hotel publican, who wanted to be known as Doug, said: “We have a recommendation from the council to remain closed for today while they get more information. It is purely a precaution.”

The school earlier said on Facebook that anyone who was at the airport or on the flight could have possibly been exposed to the virus.

It included some of the whanau who attended the gathering in Kawhia.

“Therefore, we have taken the very real precaution of meeting the buses as they arrive to ask both buses, with students on board, to return to the coast,” said the school in an urgent post.

“Kawhia bus has already done so and is on its way home as I type this message and Tahaaroa will shortly follow suit, with our babies still on the bus.”

The King Country school today requested everyone who had had contact with anyone at the meeting to urgently get tested and to isolate until they received a negative result.

As a precaution the hostel would be temporarily closed until school management could ensure it was safe to reopen, the post read.

“We are confident we are being proactively cautious and will keep everyone posted,” said the college.

The Otorohanga College runs a five-day a week hostel. Students arrive on Monday morning and return home on Friday afternoons. Most of the boarders come from Taharoa, Kawhia, Marokopa and outlying coastal areas.

The college also asked if anyone had contact with anyone from their coastal communities in the last 24 hours to get tested and remain isolated.

The college added the Covid-positive person was not in attendance at the hui but was on a flight to Hamilton and whānau who attended the Kawhia gathering could possibly have been exposed to them.

The temporary closure of the hostel was a proactive and cautious move in a bid to “keep our babies, communities and selves safe”.

Officials confirmed on Friday that a Defence Force worker at the Jet Park quarantine facility, in Auckland, had tested positive for Covid-19.

A second worker, from Wellington, then tested positive for the virus after being in the same meeting as that person last Wednesday. That person then caught a flight from Auckland to Wellington the next evening – on Thursday, November 5.

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