Coronavirus: Contacts of Auckland cases say they're receiving conflicting advice from health officials

Close, close plus, casual, casual plus, contact of a contact - whatever type you are, you just want to do the right thing, right?

But some say they're getting conflicting advice, and it seems even healthcare workers could be getting confused.

It was Saturday night when the news of another community case broke.

A close contact in the same Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) class as case M had been at a birthday party with 30 or 40 others.

One man, who didn't want to be named, shared a cigarette with the close contact, so they called Healthline.

"I was given advice to decide if I want to have my own test and decide if I'd like to isolate myself," he says.

This surprised him, he says, because he told them he felt unwell.

"I've got a cough and I've got a blocked sinus and I've got a headache," he says.

But others at the same party were given different advice.

"My other friend, who hosted the barbeque, he got told he's got to isolate," he says.

"We all got given conflicting advice, some of us being told that we're good to go to work and we're good to just do whatever we want and decide on if we want to get a test or not, other people have been told to isolate for 14 days and get two tests done. The advice was not consistent across a group of about 10 people.

"We're all trying, a big group of us, trying to work out what exactly we're supposed to be doing."

In the interim, he's had a test and decided not to go to work.

Coronavirus: Contacts of Auckland cases say they're receiving conflicting advice from health officials
Photo credit: Getty Images

The Ministry of Health says each person who calls Healthline is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

"People may be provided with different advice depending on their individual situation and the time of their call. If someone from this party develops symptoms they should get a test immediately and stay at home until a negative test result is received," a spokesperson says.

In another instance, a casual plus contact from Kmart Botany got a test after feeling unwell.

Healthline told her family that the casual plus contact had to isolate but the rest of the family could go about their day as necessary.

"I said to him, 'are you sure that we don't have to isolate', and they said, 'no, no, you don't have to stay at home, you're free to go about and do whatever you like'."

A little concerned, she called to GPs who told her the family they should be isolating, and when her daughter-in-law was getting tested she was told the same.

"While she was at the pop-up they told her that they knew that Healthline had been giving out the incorrect information and she phoned us immediately and said you have to self-isolate until I get a negative result."

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said that on 24 February, Kmart customers were changed from 'casual plus' to 'close contacts'.

"These changes were made out of an abundance of caution, due to the risk associated with a new case being infected with a COVID-19 variant of concern. For this reason, the advice given by Healthline would have changed depending on the date the person made contact with Healthline," they say.

"We acknowledge that the category change has caused some confusion. We would like to thank all those affected for their cooperation."

The current advice for Kmart Botany Customers is to self-isolate for 14 days and get a test on  25 February and 4 March, and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

People who share a house with Kmart Botany customers who were at Kmart Botany during the specified time should stay at home if the customer has symptoms and until their test result is negative.