A Queenstown woman says she has had nothing but silence from the Ministry of Health, despite dining with a person who later tested positive for Covid.
Elaine Thomson was at a resort eatery eight days ago, she and the positive person scanned in with the Covid Tracer app and were in close contact, maskless, for about 30 minutes.
The other person developed Covid symptoms, was tested, and returned a positive result on Saturday and immediately informed her.
That person was told, during a follow-up interview with the ministry, that Thomson had been deemed a “close contact” and the ministry would get in touch with her.
Rattled, Thomson said she called the Ministry of Health hotline on Saturday, seeking advice on the next steps.
She was assured her case would be escalated and someone would call her shortly.
Thomson decided to self-isolate, got a PCR test, and waited to hear from the ministry.
But by the deadline, she says she still hadn’t had a call or received any notification by text or the Covid Tracer app informing her of her status.
“It’s ridiculous,” Thomson says.
“I still have not been called back and, according to my Covid Tracer app, I have not had contact with a positive case.
“I didn’t get a phone call Saturday or Sunday, so I called them back on Monday and it was as if I hadn’t talked to them before.”
Thomson says she had to repeat everything she told the ministry on Saturday, including the details of the case she was with.
She asked why she hadn’t received a call yet and said she was told the ministry was “really behind” and to wait for the venue she was at to appear as a “location of interest” on the ministry’s website.
Given self-isolation rules changed this week, as of today she wouldn’t even have to self-isolate if she wasn’t aware she’d been exposed.
Thomson is also unimpressed with the Covid Tracer app.
“I had my Bluetooth on and scanned in and I have had no alert.”
The app states, under “contact alerts”, if you’ve scanned into the same place, or exchanged Bluetooth keys with someone who tests positive for Covid, “we will send you a contact alert”.
By noon yesterday, the ministry was still uploading close contact locations of interest dating back over a week.
Another Queenstown venue, Harry’s Pool Bar, pinged this Monday, cited the exposure date as nine days earlier, on February 5, stating all patrons were considered close contacts.
Thomson’s concern is the delay in releasing that information means people will have been out and about, “none the wiser for days”.
“They are supposed to be chasing me.
“The case gave the Ministry of Health my name and my phone number.
“I can imagine that there are a lot of people that are in the same situation that don’t even know they are a close contact and I think that is the most worrying thing.”
The venue was eventually listed at 11am yesterday, the exposure time being outside the period that Thomson and the positive case were present, noting it’s “staff only” who are considered close contacts.
Thomson: “My biggest point is, if I did have Covid and the case didn’t tell me, I would have been out in the community for a week.”
Asked about the inability to contact-trace or speak to Thomson, the Ministry of Health referred only to the February 15 shift to phase 2, reiterating a new focus on “high-exposure” events.
Thomson’s exposure, and knowledge of it, came while phase 1 was still in play.
A spokesperson says it is important to note “exposure events are only published as locations of interest when contacts cannot be reached by other means”.
Thomson says she received a text message on Tuesday night from the ministry acknowledging she had informed them she may be a close contact, stating it was now assessing her information and will contact her soon with “isolation advice”.
By the time of deadline she still hadn’t had a call.
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