'Big super-spreader event' - concern over Soundsplash Covid cases

By Nikki Preston, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 27 Jan 2022, 10:05am
The Ministry of Health has confirmed a number of Soundsplash attendees have tested positive for Covid-19. (Photo / Sylvie Whinray)
The Ministry of Health has confirmed a number of Soundsplash attendees have tested positive for Covid-19. (Photo / Sylvie Whinray)

'Big super-spreader event' - concern over Soundsplash Covid cases

By Nikki Preston, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 27 Jan 2022, 10:05am

A major music festival in Waikato at the weekend could have the makings of a super-spreader event with a number of attendees testing positive for Covid. 

Prominent microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles is warning New Zealanders to "brace themselves". 

"Looks like (we) might have had a very big super spreader event. Word of warning - nasal swabs may miss about 1/10 positives with Omicron so if you have symptoms and test negative you may still be infected," Wiles posted on social media. 

The Ministry of Health last night confirmed a number of Covid-positive cases attended Soundsplash near Hamilton at the weekend and public health officials were assessing the potential exposure. 

Health advice for those who attended the festival is expected to be published today, alongside an official list of locations of interest. 

It comes as health officials confirmed today that Omicron had arrived in Queenstown, with two locations of interest revealed. 

The locations are Queenstown Airport on Saturday (January 22) from 2.15pm-3pm. 

The second is the Hotel St Moritz, also on Saturday Jan 22, from 12am (midnight)-12pm. 

People who were at either place during the affected times are told to self-monitor for Covid symptoms for 10 days after being exposed and if symptoms start to show, get tested and stay home until a negative test result returns. 

Mayors bracing for more Soundsplash cases 

Meanwhile Waikato mayors are also bracing themselves for a surge in Covid cases after the virus appears to have spread at the three-day music festival. 

There are also reports on social media of a number of young people from Auckland's Noth Shore testing positive for Covid after attending the festival. 

The three-day festival attracts about 3000 teenagers and was moved from Raglan and held at Mystery Creek for the first time this year due to the restrictions and space required to meet Covid-19 rules. Mystery Creek is located on the outskirts of Hamilton in the Waipa District. 

Last night Soundsplash festival organisers said they have heard reports but had not had any contact with the ministry. 

People travelled from around the country to attend including Christchurch and Auckland to attend and nearby Airbnbs were booked out. Camping is also available onsite. 

Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest hadn't received any official information from the Ministry of Health at this stage, but said it was "inevitable" that someone at one of these events would turn up with it. 

"I don't even know whether it is the Omicron version or the Delta version. So with a large gathering like that I suppose you can anticipate with the virus circulating in the community that it would show up in some place like that, but it was a legitimate concert that was being held." 

Mylchreest said with very few concerts on, young people would have travelled from around the country to attend. 

"At an event like that, it is obviously going to spread pretty rapidly particularly if it is Omicron." 

His advice to attendees with symptoms was to self-isolate and get tested. 

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate would also be seeking more information about any potential outbreak this morning and already had a pre-scheduled meeting with DHB. 

"I know it's a big event and we would expect that quite a proportion of those were Hamiltonians." 

Hamilton had quite a few testing stations around the city and as of yesterday there had been a low number of people getting tested, she said. 

"I'm in the same camp as everyone else at the moment. Just listening to the speculation and waiting for final details," she said. 

She urged young people in the city to play their part in protecting everyone and social distance, wear masks and scan in. 

"This event did happen before we went into red so I don't think we can lay any blame there. I just think we need to encourage young people to realise events and gatherings are potentially a conduit for spreading Covid faster especially the Omicron variant." 

Meanwhile Otago University epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker, who has been involved in international modelling, said suggestions New Zealand could reach 50,000 Omicron infections a day by Waitangi weekend and peak at about 80,000 a few weeks later was a good estimate in his view. 

While the modelling was sound, he told RNZ that he believed it could be pushed out by a week so that the large case numbers of around 50,000 a day would begin in late February and peak in March. 

"The thing that is so striking about how Omicron behaves in a population is how rapid the outbreak is." 

Once the outbreak entered into the second stage, the exponential curve was "really quite explosive". 

Baker said now was the time to scale back interactions with other people. 

HIS advice especially to elderly or those with underlying health conditions was get a booster, reduce your contact with people outside your family unit and wear a good, high-quality mask. 

"The bad news is this is a very intense outbreak and in some ways it is also the good news in a sense as it means it will be over in a few months." 

As of yesterday, there were 56 Omicron cases in the community.