Saturday, December 4

Covid-19: Fears bars and casino could be super spreader events

It is feared that two Auckland events could be super Covid spreaders, with close to 2,000 people having come into contact with a case in just one night.

Sky City Casino on the second day of closing in August 2021.

Sky City Casino on the second day of closing in August 2021.
Photo: RNZ / Robert Smith

On Friday August 13, a now positive case took overnight trips to a nightclub and a casino, both in central Auckland.

A Covid-19 modeler says these types of events are of particular concern.

A nightclub may be the most fertile ground for Covid-19 to spread. It happened in South Korea where a young man, infected without knowing it at the time, was the origin case of a chain that spread to more than a hundred people.

That was in May of last year, with the original Covid-19 strain. The Delta variant is much more contagious than that.

One of New Zealand’s first ten cases visited a Bar 101 nightclub in central Auckland last Friday night from 11:30 pm to 1:15 am.

“This shows that there is a fairly high risk of a superpropagation event,” said Dr. Michael Plank, an expert in mathematical modeling of complex biological systems at the University of Canterbury.

On the same night as that, one case went to the main gaming room at the Sky City Casino in Auckland between 1:15 am and 3:00 am.

Sky City has determined that 240 employees working that night are close contacts, and there were about a thousand customers in the game room, also considered close contacts.

“It is unlikely that all of them would have been infected, that would be very unfortunate … but there is certainly the possibility of a large number of cases of these. We really have to wait and see the results of the tests,” he added. Dr. Plank said.

Most importantly, Dr. Plank said, is that all close contacts are completely isolated and tested.

Sky City said it has been working quickly to contact staff, advising them to isolate themselves and get tested.

Joe Carolan of Unite Union, who represents some of the casino workers in Sky City, said the company has been in good communication and worked well with them, and now it’s a waiting game.

“Obviously we’ve learned from the Australian experience how fast this thing can move … you can see that the numbers we’re talking about are a lot,” Carolan said.

Sky City Logo

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

John Lawrenson owns Bar 101, the nightclub he visited, and only found out it was a place of interest through the media.

He says 900 people passed the club that night, but it appears to be only 400 or so at the same time as the positive case, with patrons split over two floors.

“That’s a lot of people in a closed space for 90 minutes, two hours. A relatively narrow and closed space when there are that many people, so you have to think that there is some risk of transmission.” Lawrenson.

Another case is a teacher at Avondale College, which has nearly 3,000 students, plus more staff.

The staff member was deemed contagious on Thursday and Friday of last week, and all staff and students are considered close contacts, they were asked to isolate themselves for 14 days.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, a group from Avondale College traveled to Rotorua for a choir event, the Big Sing Cadenza.

New Zealand Choral Federation Executive Director Christine Argyle said all the schools that were there are waiting to see what happens with Avondale.

Today, five of the reported cases were linked to the school.

“Really thinking of all the choirs and singers that were at Cadenza, and I really appreciate the anxiety that some of them will feel. We hope they stay positive,” he said.

There are now 106 public places of interest in Auckland and 14 in and around Coromandel Town, with all details are listed on the website of the Ministry of Health.

This is an official COVID-19 ALERT.

All New Zealand You are now at Covid-19 Alert Level 4.

The alert level will be reviewed after 3 days for all areas EXCEPT Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, which will likely remain at level 4 for an initial period of 7 days.

A community case of Covid-19 has been identified.

Stay at home whenever possible and follow level 4 alert guidelines. This will stop the spread of COVID-19 and SAVE LIVES.

All are asked to:

Wear a mask and keep a distance of 2 meters from others when you leave your house.

If you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on getting tested.

Keep scanning QR codes every time you leave your home.

Practice good hygiene: wash your hands often.

Services that include supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics and gas stations will remain open at alert level 4. Face covers are mandatory for all people, both employees and customers, in companies and services that operate at alert level 4 that involve contact with the client.

For more information on Alert Level 4, go to [the government website]


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Kia Kaha – Stay strong

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