Concerns over Ministry of Health guidance after COVID-19-positive quarantine hotel nurse attends gym

There's concern tonight about gaps in our COVID response system.

A nurse at Auckland's quarantine hotel attended multiple group fitness classes, without knowing she had coronavirus.

Health experts say the Ministry should be discouraging workers from such group activities and there are renewed calls for mass masking indoors including at gyms.

It was at the Les Mills club in Takapuna where a nurse who'd been working at the Jet Park Hotel attended three high-intensity group fitness classes before testing positive for COVID-19.

However, it hasn't put members off.

"Everything is clean, there are sanitisers. So yeah, it's a personal choice as far as I'm concerned and I just made sure I kept away from everybody and went straight in and straight out," one member told Newshub.

The key classes of concern were a cycling class last Wednesday at 5:30pm and a martial arts-styled, non-contact class known as Body Combat at 6:15pm.

The health worker also went to another Body Combat session on Thursday morning at 9:15am.

Les Mills says it already had extensive cleaning protocols in place and antiviral fogging machines were used throughout the building last night.

The gym says it's been able to quickly assist authorities with contact tracing information. Eighty-nine close contacts from the gym have been established.

It's led to a rush of people wanting tests at the Northcote community testing station on the North Shore.

Otago University Department of Public Health Professor Michael Baker says gyms are obviously high-risk.

"Anything that involves heavy breathing, even talking, laughing, singing, exercising, it fires out lots of respiratory droplets," he says.

The nurse also visited Countdown Milford and The Warehouse inside the Milford mall on Thursday.

Prof Baker says we could do a lot more to minimise transmission.

"And that means universal masking indoors for adults and older children," he says.

Auckland University Faculty of Medical and Health Science Professor Des Gorman says there are certain environments COVID quarantine workers should avoid.

"One of them obviously is a busy gym, where it's very hard to do social distancing, where it's very hard to control aerosols."

He says the Ministry of Health should be providing clear guidance to all high-risk workers.

"It is a gap in the process, it's a gap in the system. It's a gap in the way we are executing border control and quarantine management," he tells Newshub.

"It's just another flaw in our execution of what should now be a well-polished act, and clearly still isn't."

However, the Ministry says it does have procedures in place to protect quarantine workers.

It says such workers are trained in using PPE, they're asked to shower and change their clothes after shifts, and keep records of their movements.

With those precautions, the Ministry says "the risks have been assessed as minimal".

The Ministry says it's likely the worker contracted the virus at the Jet Park Hotel, but exactly how is still being investigated. All the worker's household and work close contacts have tested negative.