People who visited same two Auckland stores as Covid-19 case now classified as 'close contacts'

Source: 1News

The Ministry of Health is now calling all customers who were at the same stores as a new Covid-19 case in Auckland "close contacts", upgrading them from the previous classification as "casual plus".

The Director-General of Health shed more light on the person who works at the Botany Kmart store.

It's also created a new category: "Close plus contacts".

People who were at Kmart Botany on Friday or Saturday between 3.30pm to 10.30pm on either day are now being treated as "close contacts" and are required to isolate for 14 days and get tested twice for Covid-19.

The same applies for people who were at Dark Vapes East Tāmaki on Friday between 2.30pm to 4pm or on Saturday between 7pm to 8.30pm.

Their households don't need to isolate unless the person who was at the store develops Covid-19 symptoms or tests positive.

Meanwhile staff who worked at those stores during those periods have been upgraded from "close contacts" to "close plus contacts".

They're also required to isolate for 14 days and get tested twice; their households are also required to isolate until the staff member tests negative for Covid-19.

The times don't exactly match when the positive case would've been in the stores, as the Ministry of Health adds a buffer period to ensure all potential contacts are reached.

WHAT'S CHANGED

Previously, "close contacts" were defined as people who'd had prolonged physical contact with a confirmed case. They're meant to be manually tracked down through contact tracing and contacted directly by the Ministry of Health. A person may be considered a close contact if they had direct contact with the bodily fluids of a case, lives in the same household as a case, or had face-to-face contact with a case for 15 minutes or more. 

Those who had been exposed to a case, but didn't meet the criteria for a "close contact", were previously called "casual contacts" — considered to be low risk without prolonged or physical contact with a confirmed case.

They were upgraded to the new definition of "casual plus contacts" as the UK variant of the virus has been found to have higher rates of transmission — spread — than the initial form of Covid-19.

"In some specific higher risk situations, casual plus contacts may also be contacted by the Ministry of Health," the Ministry of Health says on its website.

In the case of customers from Botany Kmart and Dark Vapes, they've now been upgraded yet again to "close contacts", according to the website. They still need to stay at home for 14 days regardless of symptoms, but are now formally required to get a test on day five and 12 after their last exposure to a case, which the Ministry of Health had already instructed they do.

If the close contact develops symptoms, household members are told to stay at home until a negative test result is returned. If anyone in the household develops symptoms, all must stay home and get a test.

1 NEWS had contacted The Ministry of Health multiple times last night asking for clarification and a definition for the new "close plus contact" category. The Ministry refused to respond to questions.

Overnight, the Ministry of Health website was quietly updated to now include a definition for "close plus contact". It describes it as a person that meets the same criteria as a "close contact", "however, their contact was where there is higher risk for transmission". They are still required to stay home for 14 days and get a test on day five and 12 after their last exposure to a case.

Under the "close plus contact" definition, rules for that person's household have been tightened. They are now required to stay at home until the close plus contact returns a negative day five test. If the close plus contact develops Covid-19 symptoms after returning a day five negative test result, members of the household need to stay home again until an additional negative test result is returned. 

If anyone in the household of the close plus contact develops symptoms, all must stay at home and get a test.

WHAT'S IN A CONTACT?

Casual contacts previously meant people who may have had passing contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, such as those who were at the same store at the same time. Those people weren't required to isolate or get tested unless they developed symptoms.

That's now been largely removed and instead those people are mostly referred to as "casual plus contacts", due to the increased transmissibility of the UK variant of the virus. They're required to isolate for five days and get tested, regardless of symptoms. Their household members are allowed to leave and live life as usual.

The next step up is "close contacts", which is being used in two separate scenarios: for formerly casual/casual-plus contacts, and also for people who have been in close physical contact with the case.

The Ministry of Health declined to comment on why the same term is being used for two separate risk levels.

Above that is now "close-plus" contacts; how that escalates from "close contacts" is not yet clear, as the formal definition supplied by the Ministry of Health simply says: "Their contact was where there is higher risk for transmission".

It's not clear whether that means previous close contacts are likely to be upgraded to the new "close-plus" category, or whether any further classifications are likely to be created.