Covid 19: Half of guests sick in Bluff wedding cluster

Author
NZ Herald / Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Apr 2020, 5:58PM
The wedding was held at Oyster Cove Restaurant and Bar on March 21, attended by about 70 people. Photo / Google
The wedding was held at Oyster Cove Restaurant and Bar on March 21, attended by about 70 people. Photo / Google

Covid 19: Half of guests sick in Bluff wedding cluster

Author
NZ Herald / Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Apr 2020, 5:58PM

The number of Covid-19 cases linked to the wedding in Bluff has continued to skyrocket, increasing by 12 to 34, after climbing by 14 yesterday.

The Ministry of Health has revealed eight new cases in the Southern District Health Board area today amid suggestion areas with low transmission rates could have lockdown conditions eased before those with high rates.

• Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

However it is unclear how many of the cases linked to the wedding are in the South as many of the guests are understood to have come from out of town.

The wedding was held at Oyster Cove Restaurant and Bar on March 21, attended by about 70 people.

Venue owner Ross Jackson said he believed the guests were not local but from Invercargill and beyond.

It was announced earlier this week several attendees tested positive for Covid-19 and Jackson said all the staff working the event had now self-isolated.

"We'll just hunker down here. We're obviously closed.

"The wedding was the last function we had on our books."

He said they had put health precautions in place, such as hand sanitising and minimal contact between people.

"I don't think that made a jot of difference to be fair, now I know what I know about Covid-19."

Bluff was a small place and since the news of the cluster broke, he had experienced the "odd sharp comment".

"You expect it, but to be fair, everyone in Bluff has been really supportive."

The Ministry of Health updated the number of cases relating to the Southland wedding on its website today. The cluster now includes 34 confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19, which increased by 12 over the last 24 hours.

During a media briefing addressing the temporary closure of the inpatient ward at Lakes District Hospital yesterday, Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming could not confirm where attendees of the wedding had dispersed to.

"We don't know — I know there are some from Dunedin and some from Invercargill. I don't have the specific numbers, sorry," he said.

Figures released by the Southern District Health board yesterday show at March 30, there were nine cases in Invercargill — yesterday there were 18. Over the same period, Dunedin increased from 30 cases to 35 confirmed cases and one probable.

Medical officer of health Susan Jack said Public Health South had identified and was following up all contacts related to the wedding.

"We have been in contact with the wedding venue and provided appropriate advice to ensure there is no ongoing risk to the public."

Bluff Community Board chairman Ray Fife said Bluff residents wanted to know if any locals had tested positive for the virus.

"It just shows you any population, be it large or small, one person can trigger a chain reaction you end up losing control of ... That is the whole point of this lockdown."

No new cases were linked to the other Southern cluster, the World Hereford Conference, which was held in Queenstown from March 9-13.

It is connected to 27 New Zealand cases, some of which had tested positive in the South.

SDHB continues to have the most cases by DHB area, with a total of 118 cases.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the Government was looking into what the criteria was for extending the lockdown – he said he would have more details on that soon, possibly by Saturday.

It was the goal to get "cases right down" so the Government could move from alert level four to alert level three.

However, he added that: "It may well be that we may not be able to do that in every part of the country at the same time."

It was also possible that after lockdown restrictions were eased the number of cases would increase and restrictions would be brought back again.

He also spoke about the DHB areas with the most number of cases and how that might affect decisions on moving between alert levels.

"We are starting to analyse the information about Covid-19 in New Zealand and we know that we have had the most number of cases in the following four district health boards; Southern DHB, and that's particularly around the Queenstown area, Waikato, Auckland and Waitematā.

"And one of the things we are now wanting to do is to look at the details of where those lab tests have been undertaken so that we can build a picture of the rate of testing in each region.

"And that will help inform our decision making about moving between alert levels."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier said the Government wants more testing for Covid-19 in regions with low confirmed cases before deciding whether some could have conditions of the lockdown eased.

Ardern indicated that the Government did not have sufficient data on community transmission to decide whether to lower the alert levels in some regions.

"To make those calls we need to make sure we have enough tests."

In areas across the country where testing had been low, the Government needed to be sure "we have enough data and enough information to really make a clear judgment, that we actually don't have community transmission there - and we might be in a position, for instance, to change alert levels for those different regions."