Coronavirus: Auckland doctor urges hypervigilance about virus after Hamilton court scare

A doctor overseeing Auckland's community testing sites is urging his staff and the public to be hypervigilant about COVID-19, especially with a new, more infectious variant at the border.

Dr Vanshdeep Tangri says we should not take our current freedoms for granted and we need to "be ready" for another outbreak. 

The warning comes after a COVID-19 scare at the Hamilton District Court on Wednesday morning that triggered a mini lockdown. 

The person suspected to have the virus who visited the courthouse is a managed isolation worker. They were tested on Tuesday and were awaiting results, and there was concern they'd turned up with symptoms.

After an hour and a half, the lockdown was lifted, and the Ministry of Health confirmed later in the day the worker returned a negative test result. However, it says the incident serves as a reminder to remain vigilant and Dr Tangri agrees. 

He runs three testing clinics in Auckland and says even though we don't have community cases right now, there's no certainty it'll stay that way, especially with a new, more transmissible strain of the virus at the border.  

"If it does spill into the community we must be ready, and that's what I'm telling my teams everywhere. Just be ready."

He says all the teams are careful when it comes to infection control, but the new variant that's already wreaked havoc in Britain adds another layer of risk. 

"I've asked them to be hypervigilant."

The new variant is known as B117 and is 1.5-times more infectious than the original strain. 

It's been recorded in more than 30 countries, including New Zealand where at least six cases have been detected among recent arrivals 

Most community testing stations closed over the New Year period, but are all up and running again now. 

Since Tuesday this week, when work resumed for many, health workers are reporting an increase in demand at testing stations around Auckland.

"We're averaging around 50 a day across our sites, and some sites are doing 80 to 85," Dr Tangri says.

He says while it's summer and a holiday, we're still amid an evolving pandemic.

"We're very lucky to be in this position but we can't take it for granted and we shouldn't take it for granted."

Health workers say they're taking extra care - and urge the public to do the same.