Ministry of Health accused of major blunder after 'low-risk' student tests positive for COVID-19

The Health Ministry's accused of making a major blunder in the advice it gave an Auckland teen, which may result in dozens of other being infected.

The teenager who had contact with a positive case, was told by the Ministry his risk of getting the virus was low, and he didn't need to self-isolate. 

He was worried and got a test anyway - and he was positive. But not before he'd interacted with friends assuming he didn't have COVID-19.

Newshub has decided not to identify the 18-year-old, but he's a former student of Pakuranga College who remains mates with many pupils.

On Sunday he was confirmed to have COVID-19. 

The school's principal is appalled at how the Health Ministry has handled his case. 

"The amount of anxiety and tension it's causing is terrible. I'm very disappointed," Pakuranga College Principal Michael Williams told Newshub.

The teenager had been in contact with a confirmed case - his employer.

But the Health Ministry told the teen he was just a "casual contact", that he was "unlikely to get infected" and he "[did] not need to go into isolation".  

The Health Ministry's Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said he believes Ministry did what it could.

"I think (the student) was given the best advice that was available at the time."

But Williams disagrees, saying the advice was "obviously a mistake. If the Ministry of Health had been more proactive then and actually put the possible contacts into isolation, we would have had our kids in isolation, and it would protected a large number of people in our community."

Assuming he was okay after receiving the Ministry's advice, the teenager socialised with friends, sharing a vape pen at Cockle Bay last week. 

Even though he was told he was low risk and didn't need a test, he decided to get one to be safe. His results came back yesterday and it confirmed a positive result for COVID-19.  

Nine other students from the College have since been taken to get tested. But Principal Michael Williams believes many more will now require a test. 

He says there were at least two gatherings over the past week - a farewell on Wednesday and a party on Saturday night where transmission could have occurred. 

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"I have parents really worried. Lots of students are being tested now. We just don't know how widespread it is," Williams told Newshub. 

Kathryn Kelly, who's in self-isolation, hosts an international student who attends Pakuranga College. 

Her student, and five others, went to the party on Saturday, which was a 21st celebration, with 60 others. All six students had recent contact with the teen who's confirmed to have COVID-19. 

Kathyrn Kelly said it made her lose trust in the advice being issued by the Health Ministry. 

"We haven't been given the right information. It's just creating such massive uncertainty for everybody," Kathern Kelly told Newshub. 

And that uncertainty has left the school, and parents, taking on the role of contacting people who may be affected.

Michael Williams says the student who tested positive "did everything right" and decided to get the test "off his own bat" which has likely prevented even greater possible transmission of the virus.

Dr Bloomfield says he believes the Health Ministry has taken a precautionary approach right from the start of the outbreak in New Zealand and that the testing rate here is "better or similar" to many other countries.