Coronavirus: Govt calls for all south and west Aucklanders to get tested for COVID-19

This article has been amended following the Prime Minister's briefing on Sunday afternoon, which clarified the Facebook post was "over-simplified" and a miscommunication. The post has since been deleted.

The Government has issued "important" public health information via social media, calling for all south and west Auckland residents to get tested for COVID-19 - regardless of whether they are presenting symptoms.

In a since-deleted post, the Unite against COVID-19 Facebook page released the "important message" shortly after 5pm on Saturday - despite the Ministry of Health previously advising New Zealanders not to get tested for the virus unless they were presenting symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19.

"Please have a test," the Unite against COVID-19 team wrote. "If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, have a test. 

"If you're in south or west Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get COVID-19, even if you don't have symptoms, please have a test.

"You can get tested with your doctor or at a community testing centre. COVID-19 tests are free."

The message contradicted earlier guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, with both Minister of Health Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield urging those in good health to stay away from testing centres so workers could prioritise symptomatic people. 

It also came a mere day before Auckland is set to transition to alert level 2, with the city preparing to move to less restrictive protocol as of 11:59pm on Sunday.

The advice caused confusion among Aucklanders, with one woman claiming Healthline hadn't been briefed on the updated information.

Both Hipkins and Bloomfield have previously called for people in good health to stay away from testing centres, so those who are symptomatic can be prioritised.
Both Hipkins and Bloomfield have previously called for people in good health to stay away from testing centres, so those who are symptomatic can be prioritised. Photo credit: Getty

"I just called Healthline to ask about the test, and I was told that they weren't briefed about this. What's the deal? We are in west Auckland and [have] no symptoms. Should we go get a test? And will the children need testing too?"

In response, the Unite against COVID-19 team reiterated: "We are encouraging tests in south and west Auckland, whether you are showing symptoms or not." 

"I'm so confused?!" said another. "Why would someone get a test if they have no symptoms!? Two weeks ago we were all told to not get a test if you do not have symptoms! Honestly this is an absolute joke."

West and south Auckland have a combined population of roughly 500,000.

During the 1pm briefing on Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was "very angry" about the "over-simplified" Facebook post and called it a miscommunication. 

In a statement to Newshub, the Ministry of Health clarified: "We are encouraging people located in South or West Auckland who have either been in contact with a confirmed or probable case, or has been at one of the workplaces or religious venues, to get tested, even if they don't have symptoms.

"We are also encouraging those who have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if they were to get COVID-19, to get a test as well."

The "over-simplified" post followed the confirmation of 13 new cases of the virus on Saturday, 11 of which were detected in the community. 

Ten of the 11 cases have been epidemiologically linked to the existing Auckland cluster. Six of the 10 are associated with the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, which is being treated as a "mini cluster", according to Dr Bloomfield. Four of the six were within the same household and two had attended church services. 

The remaining four are contacts of previously confirmed cases, while the 11th case is still under investigation. 

Earlier this week, the ministry called for those who had attended a wedding at the church on August 7 and services on August 8, 9 and 11 to get tested for the virus.

On Saturday, it was reported that members of the church had continued to meet for prayers during level 3, breaching lockdown protocol. 

As of Sunday, 135 cases have been linked to the Auckland cluster, 115 of which are currently active. During the previous outbreak earlier this year, New Zealand's largest cluster - a Bluff wedding - stood at 98. 

Twenty of the 137 active cases have been detected in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

The origin of the Auckland cluster remains unknown and under investigation.

On Friday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson encouraged Aucklanders "in any way connected" to the Mt Roskill church or Mt Albert Grammar School - which has had two students recorded as confirmed cases - to get tested.

The full, up-to-date list of testing sites in Auckland is available at Those who are presenting symptoms are advised to call Healthline (0800 358 5453) prior to arriving at their GP or a testing centre.