Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak: Dangerous Delta liaisons an employment, legal risk

Delta lockdown liaisons might prove irresistible to some people – but the urge to break bubbles can have serious health, legal and employment consequences.

“People aren’t going to stop having affairs just because it’s lockdown,” private investigator Julia Hartley Moore said.

She believed people who enjoyed breaking rules and having secret meetings would keep doing so, no matter how the pandemic played out.

“It’s going on all the time and there are lots of people that are doing it. There are sex workers doing it.”

For people not already conducting affairs, many dating apps facilitated rendezvous for users.

“And if they’re prepared to hook up and prepared to break lockdown, they’ll do it,” Hartley Moore added.

“There’s a bunch of people out there that really don’t care. They don’t even think. They don’t care about the consequences, which is sad.”

Hartley Moore said some companies were tracking employer movements during the latest lockdown.

And the use of GPS tracking on company cars is common in New Zealand.

“Those people are behaving themselves,” she said this week. “But if they weren’t, they would be in dire straits.”

Employment law expert Max Whitehead said lockdown breaches, including illicit liaisons, could be viewed as breaches of an employee’s good faith obligations.

“Employers can take disciplinary action against a person who is probably misleading the employer,” the Whitehead Group managing director said.

“If an employee was expected to stay home during lockdown and has gone out and breached it, and is putting the employer at risk, the employer could take action against them – and that could include dismissal.”

Whitehead said even before the pandemic, employment law cases had arisen when workers allegedly called in sick but then were seen out at public events.

Traditionally, unwell workers were expected to stay home because that prevented them spreading illness to colleagues and allowed them to recover more quickly, he said.

“With Covid, that just ups the ante even more.”

A worker having an affair outside a household bubble during lockdown, or meeting up with a stranger from dating apps put themselves in danger on many fronts, he said.

Even if an employer did not catch a staff member breaching lockdown rules, police might do so.

“Those that are found in breach of any alert level restrictions can potentially face the relevant infringement such as a Breach of the Health Order,” a police spokeswoman said.

In the latest lockdown, police by Wednesday evening had filed charges for 19 alleged Health Act breaches.

Police said under alert level 4, travel for anything other than essential reasons was not permitted and people were required to stay at home.

The police spokeswoman said under level 3 – which Auckland could potentially move to next week – both parties must agree to keep bubbles exclusive.

“Similarly, at alert level 3, travel should be minimised.”

Outside Auckland, people wishing to stage steamy liaisons can do so, but the New Zealand AIDS Foundation urged them to get tested for venereal disease first.

“Please test for HIV and other STIs before having sex outside your bubbles in level 2,” the Foundation said on its website.

“We can break the chain of transmission for more than one epidemic with this lockdown.”

The foundation said people should not be having sex outside of their bubbles on levels 3 or level 4.

At alert level 4, a person living alone can arrange with another person living alone or in a household to join their bubble, but this arrangement must be exclusive.

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