Coronavirus: Kiwi who caught COVID-19 through community transmission speaks out against bullying

The Wairarapa man who is one of New Zealand's first community transmission cases of COVID-19 has spoken out against bullying.

The man - "Ross" - says although most of his community has been supportive, he's also been the target of harassment.

"There are just a few people that were spreading rumours and bullying me a little bit - small town, people know who you are," he told The Project.

The combination of being bullied and also being in self-isolation started to take its toll on him.

"That brought me down part way through last week and I had a couple of breakdowns. Just with being locked away on your own and reading some of these things, because it's been a bit unfair."

But he says he won't be the only person who gets bullied because they have COVID-19.

"It's not just going to be me that's going to end up feeling depressed and having breakdowns and being locked away in a room. There's going to be a lot of other people who get it [COVID-19] through the community who are going to get blamed for what's happening - and it's not their fault."

Ross is the first “community transmission” case to speak publicly - and he still has no idea where he got the virus. 

He began to feel sick after he played a cricket match with friends on the Kapiti Coast on March 21.

He "felt fine" in the weeks leading up to the game, but started feeling tired after a round of golf he played when he returned from the cricket match.

"I got back from golf, felt a bit tired and a bit lethargic, so decided to drink a beer. And then I woke up Monday morning with very minor symptoms," he said.

Ross then decided to stay off work for the next couple of days.

"On the Monday that I called in sick, with everything that was going on, I was told by my parents to basically stay in my room."

He quarantined himself there on Monday and Tuesday, and only left his house on Wednesday to get a doctor's certificate to give to his work.

After he described his symptoms to his doctor, he was tested for COVID-19 and his results came back on Thursday evening as positive.

"I felt that, because of my minimal symptoms, I was going to come back negative, but obviously needed that paperwork to send to work for my time off," he explained.

"It was a bit of a shock, because my symptoms were so minimal it just didn’t feel like I was even ill. It was like I had the very slightest cold."

While he's still uncertain where he caught the virus, he had travelled to Auckland three weeks earlier to attend the Saturday night Tool concert on February 29.

When he and his friends arrived back in Wellington from the concert, they found that someone had attended the Friday night show and tested positive for COVID-19.

"There's still the potential for things to be spread possibly from either travellers or people who may have gone to both concerts, but as far as I'm aware I was not around anyone who had been overseas or who had just come back from overseas," Ross said.

After handing over his flight details to health officials after landing, he was told there was nothing that suggested he had been near international travellers, so he went about the following weeks doing everything as normal until he fell ill after the cricket game.

He said that every single person he's been in close contact with over the past three weeks has come back clear, so he's been unable to trace where he picked the virus up.

"All my cricket mates that had to get tested have all come back clear, my work has taken precautions and got some of those guys tested and they call came back clear, and the two people I played golf with on the Sunday have also come back clear.

"So it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack."

Ross has now been cleared of COVID-19 by health officials. 

The Carterton District Council has said all "close contacts" of him have been cleared. This includes nine staff at the council who were tested and all cleared. It also includes his social group and the Kapiti Old Boys Cricket Second XI, who he played with days before he was diagnosed.

Although he's been cleared, he's choosing to stay in self-isolation for a full 14 days.

"I've done everything right since day one, I'm going to continue to do things right for my community," he said.

"I'm just staying put and doing everything I can to make sure things aren't spreading."

He is one of four community transmitted cases. The other three are in Auckland.