Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Up to 220 exposed at church service; Air NZ crew member tests positive

An Auckland church service visited by a person infected with Covid-19 on Sunday had roughly 220 people in attendance, including a group of children and Sunday school teachers.

A host of locations of interest have meanwhile been released tonight, with Lynn Mall, Event Cinemas in Auckland’s Queen St, a Warehouse store and a bus that runs from Birkdale to Auckland’s CBD among them. The earliest exposure site is now pinpointed to be Sumthin Dumplin in Auckland’s city centre, right back on Tuesday August 3.

And an Air NZ air crew member has tested positive to Covid today, the company told staff in an email tonight.

The crew member’s last duty was flight NZ90 from Narita, Japan, which arrived in Auckland on August 15.

Air New Zealand says the staff member is now isolating, and other crew and customers who are close contacts are being advised. The airline says it is working with the Ministry of Health to identify if any other New Zealanders have come into contact with the crew member.

The crew member was fully vaccinated, Air NZ said.

Air NZ is confident proper protocols were followed, including taking private transport to and from a layover hotel, isolating in the hotel while on layover, and wearing PPE.

Air crew are subject to regular surveillance testing in which they are tested up to once every seven days, Air NZ says.

New locations of interest

Almost 70 bars, supermarkets, shops, eateries, theatres, chemists are linked to New Zealand’s Covid-scare.

Health officials have so far tracked down 10 cases of the virus in the outbreak and the list of exposure sites continues to grow.

The locations of interest are largely centred in the city centre, North Shore and parts of West Auckland.

Church service

Pastor Dave Bliley, who runs Central Auckland Church of Christ alongside his wife, estimates there were around 160 people in the church’s main area on Sunday, which operates out of Freemans Bay Community Hall. Roughly 60 others, mostly children and teachers, were in a separate area of the facility during the service.

“It’s been a long day,” Bliley told the Herald, explaining that he has so far sent out roughly 10 mass emails to his congregation with updates on the situation. “We’ve been in contact with them since last night and multiple times throughout the day.”

While the person with the virus wasn’t a regular attendee, Bliley said he had checked in with the parishioner who brought the person along and had been told the person was doing fine at an MIQ facility.

Parishioners gathered again tonight for worship and comfort in light of the shocking news – but this time via Zoom.

Transitioning to online services amid the latest Covid-19 lockdown shouldn’t be too new or daunting for the church, Bliley added.

“That’s what we did during the lockdowns last year – we’d just go live [on the internet],” he said, explaining that it’ll just be a matter of returning to old habits.

During tonight’s Zoom service, Bliley plans to spend the first part updating people on the Covid situation and fielding questions. Then it will be back to business as usual.

“Even though it’s virtual, it’s good to connect,” he said.

The church is one of several large gatherings revealed today, amid the first day of a strict, nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. Auckland University of Technology and Avondale College, which is the third-largest secondary school in New Zealand, are also in the process of responding to Covid-19 cases.

At Avondale College, where a teacher attended while potentially infectious this week and last week, students and staff have been told to self-isolate for two weeks – regardless of if the lockdown ends earlier or they test negative for the virus. Everyone at the school is considered a “close contact”, according to a note from Auckland Regional Public Health Service shared on the school’s website.

Meanwhile, the AUT student attended one of the university’s largest lecture halls on Tuesday and was infectious at the time, the health service told school officials. The school has identified 84 other students who were in attendance, Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack told staff in a letter.

New Zealand’s outbreak, revealed yesterday, is the highly infectious Delta variant and appears to be connected to the New South Wales outbreak, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the nation today.

Auckland and Coromandel are set to be in alert level 4 lockdown for at least a week, while the rest of the country will also be at level 4 for at least three days.

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