Fully vaccinated police officer tests positive after helping woman; 44 new cases

Vaimoana Tapaleao, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 8 Oct 2021, 1:12PM
Staff at the Samoa i Manurewa Tutū Fa'atasi vaccination event this morning. Photo / Alex Burton
Staff at the Samoa i Manurewa Tutū Fa'atasi vaccination event this morning. Photo / Alex Burton

Fully vaccinated police officer tests positive after helping woman; 44 new cases

Vaimoana Tapaleao, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 8 Oct 2021, 1:12PM

A fully vaccinated Auckland police officer has tested positive for Covid after they and three other officers assisted a Covid-positive woman.

Police are investigating whether the officers followed full PPE protocols when they dealt with the woman in Māngere Bridge on Tuesday.

The four officers have been self-isolating following the incident where they were exposed to a person who subsequently tested positive for Covid, police said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Police said the officers had responded to reports of concern for a woman's welfare shortly before 1pm on Tuesday.

She was found on Miro Rd in Māngere Bridge and was spoken to by police, who took her to Auckland Hospital for a mental health assessment.

"Once at the hospital it was established the woman was displaying Covid-like symptoms and she has subsequently tested positive," police said.

The four officers were stood down the same day. They were tested and began self-isolation for 14 days as a precaution.

"Late last night one of these officers returned a positive test for Covid-19 and police [are] working with the Ministry of Health to manage the situation," police said today.

"The other three officers have since returned a negative day-1 test and will continue to self-isolate and be regularly tested.

"A fifth police officer not involved in the exposure event, but who lives at the same address as one of the four officers is considered a close contact and is also self-isolating as a precaution."

All four police staff involved in the incident are fully vaccinated but inquiries are continuing into the extent of PPE use at the time of the incident, said police.

"The police station where the officer who tested positive is based has under gone a deep clean along with the patrol car involved."

44 cases today - 41 in Auckland

There are 44 new community cases of Covid-19 today - 41 are in Auckland and three are in Waikato.

Twenty of the cases are household contacts, 12 are known contacts, and 12 remain unlinked with investigations continuing to determine how they are linked to the current outbreak, Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said.

"We acknowledge today's numbers are higher than recent days. This is not unexpected because there have been a number of contacts of new cases and we can expect to get fluctuations from day to day."

Twenty-five people are in hospital, with five in ICU or HDU. Those in hospital are at: North Shore (2), Middlemore (12), Auckland (10) and Waikato Base Hospital (1).

There is a possibility that cases in Northland may grow after officials confirmed a person in the area had tested positive for Covid after initially returning a "weak positive" test result.

Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai told Three's AM Show this morning she believed the person involved is an essential worker who travelled to Auckland and back again. As a result, she expected to see a number of locations of interest identified.

A total of 29 new community cases were reported by the Ministry of Health yesterday, as well as two people with the virus at the border.

Of those community cases, 24 people are from Auckland and five are from the Waikato.

Seven of those people were subject to investigations into how they may be linked to the outbreak, as they had not yet been epidemiologically linked.

Today's update comes as the call to get vaccinated continues - particularly for some suburbs in Auckland which continues to show low vaccination rates, despite many in those communities taking up the call to get vaccinated over the past few weeks.

Call for vulnerable communities to get vaccinated gets louder

One community-led vaccination drive has seen many in the Manurewa community choosing to get vaccinated in South Auckland today.

Samoa i Manurewa Tutū Fa'atasi (Samoans in Manurewa Stand Together) kicked off its two-day vaccination event today at the Northcrest car park, on Maich Rd, this morning.

Several Pacific church leaders have banded together to help put on the event in a bid to boost not only vaccination rates but trust among the Samoan and local communities.

Pastor Lui Ponifasio, of Life Church Manurewa, said: "We've answered the call to help increase the vaccination rate for Samoans in our area, because we know our community and want to play our part to ensure that Manurewa residents are protected as [much] as
possible from Covid-19."

Despite huge efforts among Māori and Pasifika communities to get vaccinated - in the form of mass vaccination stations and promotions on targeted community media outlets, Facebook and TikTok - many remained hesitant about getting the vaccine.

Covid outbreak among unvaccinated could be as bad as 1918 flu pandemic

There were underlying issues of ongoing mistrust with the Crown and the Government, experts have acknowledged.

One Māori health researcher said not doing so could result in a more grim reality in New Zealand at some point.

Expert Dr Rawiri Taonui said Delta had spread at a higher rate among Māori after Auckland dropped down to alert level 3.

"It's spreading into the marginalised periphery of the Māori community - and that's happened during the second week of the move to level 3 in Auckland," he told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.

For Māori, the chances of being hospitalised after getting Covid-19 are "probably more than 100 times more likely than a fully vaccinated person".

"They're really, really serious numbers. With the case confirmed in Whāngārei last night and Delta already in four or five towns in the Waikato, there's a real risk of Delta moving into high demographic Māori areas with very low rates of vaccination.

"So Northland, the Lakes District, Bay of Plenty, bit further south into the King Country and Taranaki. If we start seeing more than 50 cases a day and then maybe 100, then we're looking at a very serious situation akin to 1918.

"Akin to 1918 - the Spanish flu - in my opinion. I don't want to be right, but I think that that's what the numbers are starting to tell us."

In October 1918, a more deadly wave of the new influenza strain arrived in New Zealand. In just two months - by the end of the year - about 9000 people had died from the virus that had also struck down millions of people around the world.

A New Zealand passenger and cargo ship, the Talune, would later take the Spanish flu from here to Samoa; when sick passengers were allowed onto shore without going into quarantine.

About 8500 people in the island nation - just over a fifth of the population - were wiped out as a result.

Asked if New Zealand was trying hard enough in the fight to beat Covid, Taonui said: "The situation is so potentially really serious that we need to keep trying as hard as possible.

"I've been talking to a lot of people over the last week and a half and they're saying 'We've got whānau sitting on the fence'.

"And I'm saying to them: 'Listen, push them off the fence and make sure they land on the right side'."