'We never knew she was sick': Store owner where new Covid case works hits back

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Nov 2020, 8:38pm
AZ Collections. (Photo / NZ Herald)
AZ Collections. (Photo / NZ Herald)

'We never knew she was sick': Store owner where new Covid case works hits back

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 Nov 2020, 8:38pm

The boss of a woman at the centre of the new Covid outbreak has rubbished claims he told her to work despite her feeling sick.

Officials claimed this afternoon the woman - aged in her 20s who worked at A-Z Collections in High St in a role serving customers - tried to phone in sick to her job at an Auckland CBD store but ended up coming in and wearing a mask.

The situation has been criticised by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who says he is frustrated and disappointed by the incident.

It has led to a call for Auckland CBD employees to work from home tomorrow.

The woman became symptomatic on Monday, and was tested on Tuesday.

But despite receiving advice to isolate, officials have alleged she talked to her manager, and went to work on Wednesday, wearing a mask.

But the co-owner of the store - who would not give his name - told the Herald tonight those claims were not true. And he has called in the lawyers.

"We never knew staff [member] was sick - she never said she had a test," he said.

"We never knew she felt unwell. We just want to tell the truth."

The man said he and his wife - who is the store's other co-owner - have now conducted their lawyer over the claims.

He also said they had been targeted by abusive messages to their cellphone and email account.

"We feel really unsafe," he said.

As well as threats, they had been sent messages telling them to "go back to China", while other messages included their home address.

Goff told NewstalkZB the latest case was a big problem and the worst thing that could've happened.

He said Auckland could beat Covid again, but Aucklanders needed to follow the rules, and work collectively.

The mayor also told RNZ "it is not great news".

"The worst thing that happened in this case is the woman having been told to isolate, then told by a store manager to come into work. That is frankly unbelievable.

"I just can not understand that. It defies common sense. There is a lesson in that, and you think that is a lesson people didn't need to learn."

Earlier, health bosses said people who work in downtown Auckland are being asked to do their jobs from home if possible tomorrow.

Director of public health Caroline McElnay said there has been a detailed interview with the confirmed case.

The woman is in a customer-facing role in their job at A-Z Collections on Auckland's High St, McElnay said.

She called in sick to work after being told to isolate but after a conversation with her manager went to work and wore a mask.

The woman's three close contacts are colleagues and friends and are being moved to a border hotel. They are all reported to be feeling well.

The woman also took a number of "very short" Uber trips to work and drivers are being contacted and asked to isolate.

The woman's movements have been released.

These include:

  • Smith and Caughey's on Queen St on Saturday November 7 (3.50–6pm).
  • Red Pig Restaurant, Kitchener St on Saturday November 7 (6-8.30pm)
  • Takeaways from Starbucks Queen St and from Sunnytown Restaurant on Sunday November 8 (11.30-11.45am).
  • Takeaways from The Gateau House on Queen St on Sunday November 8 (6.40-6.50pm)
  • Takeaways from Starbucks Queen St and from Sunnytown Restaurant, Lorne St, on Monday November 9 (11.31-11.40am)

Anyone in the Auckland area and anyone throughout New Zealand should stay home if they have cold and flu symptoms, she said.

Out of an abundance of caution, Aucklanders who work in the CBD should work from home tomorrow, said McElnay, and if you have to go into that area you should wear a mask.

The woman's swab is being processed overnight for genome sequencing and has been received by ESR.

An incident involving a fire alarm - where people in managed isolation mingled with apartment guests where the woman lives - is not likely to be a source of infection for the case as it was at 8pm on Monday night.