The owner of a Greenhithe pub at the centre of New Zealand's latest Covid-19 outbreak has been put into the Jet Park managed isolation facility - four days after he told officials that he lives with his 73-year-old mother.
Kevin McVicar and seven other staff at The Malt tavern were told to self-isolate at home last Wednesday night, when the Ministry of Health told them that a patron who was at the pub on October 16 had tested positive for the virus.
McVicar said he told the ministry then that he lived with his mother, Eileen McVicar, 73.
He and his mother both took Covid tests on Thursday and were told on Friday that they both tested negative.
McVicar and his staff, who also all tested negative, were told to stay at home until October 30, two weeks after their potential exposure to the virus. But Eileen McVicar was told that she was free to go out into the community again.
Two days later, today, an Auckland Regional Public Health Service nurse rang McVicar and told him to go to Jet Park because of the risk to his mother.
"I'm just waiting for my prison shuttle," he said.
"There were mixed messages. They said it's because I can't properly isolate myself from my mother while I'm at home, which is true - but this should have been clear at the start. If this the case, why am I going in now, and not days before?"
He said his mother was in good health, and a nephew living downstairs would be close by if she needed help. But he questioned the advice she was given.
"When she got a negative result on day 2, she was told she was free to go around. Now she's told to self-isolate," he said.
"I completely understand it. It's just amazing that not everyone is on the same page with it."
McVicar said the Ministry of Health contact tracer who rang him on Wednesday night told him he would get a follow-up call the next day, Thursday, about the next steps.
"I rang them because I hadn't heard from them. When I said I'm from The Malt, the guy didn't know what I was talking about, which was really weird," McVicar said.
"He put me on to someone who knew what was going on. It's been a much better experience with the public health nurses than the Ministry of Health."
He said a public health nurse told him he could get a special code to get his Covid test result faster, but when he rang the ministry to get a code "they had never heard of a code".
In the end he didn't need it because his doctor did the test and got the result quickly.
"It seems a bit weird. They don't share stuff," McVicar said.
"I think they need to communicate a bit better with each other. I mean, we are getting there in the end, but the lack of communication was a bit strange."
McVicar has been told he will be released from Jet Park on October 30 if he tests negative again on October 27, and that his mother will then be allowed to "go out into the world" again.
He has closed The Malt until October 31 because eight of his 16-strong team, including three managers, are in self-isolation. He has applied for a subsidy from the Leave Support Scheme, which pays $585.80 a week for fulltime staff and $350 for part-time staff who have to self-isolate because of Covid-19.
A Ministry of Health spokesman said McVicar's move to the quarantine facility was "a highly precautionary measure designed to reduce any risk to Mr McVicar's mother".
"Public health officials in Auckland have been in daily contact with Mr McVicar to assess his health and wellbeing and check he and his household have the support they need to safely self-isolate," he said.
In many cases people who are deemed close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 can self-isolate safely at home, the spokesman said.
"However, it is not unusual for circumstances to change during a period of self-isolation - if they do public health experts will review their advice and evolve it as needed. This may involve other options for the isolation period."
The ministry spokesman thanked McVicar and his mother for their ongoing cooperation with health authorities.
Meanwhile, no new Covid cases were reported in New Zealand on Sunday.
Seven testing stations are operating across Auckland this weekend at:
- Northcote Community Testing Centre.
- Northcare Accident and Medical, Whānau House in Henderson.
- Western Springs Community Testing Centre.
- The Whānau Ora Community Clinic in Wiri.
- The Ōtara Community Testing Centre.
- The North Harbour stadium carpark in Albany.