COVID-19: New Zealanders who refuse testing, deny science 'put everyone at risk' - Phil Goff

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has directed a scathing rebuke towards New Zealanders that continue to deny science and evidence, arguing that their views "put everyone else at risk".

The Super City entered its fourth lockdown on Sunday after it was revealed that an active case of COVID-19 had failed to isolate last week, potentially infecting numerous others. Despite being asked to remain at home, the student visited several locations, including their university - and went to a gym shortly after getting tested.

In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, the region will remain under alert level 3 restrictions for a preliminary seven-day period. 

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday morning, Mayor Phil Goff stressed the importance of sticking to the rules - and urged everyone to do their bit.

"For this lockdown to work, it requires everyone to play their part… you've got to follow the rules for us to get through this," he said. 

"It only takes a few people to let us down and for this system to work. It relies on the cooperation of everyone."

University of Auckland physicist and disease modeller Shaun Hendy echoed that call, reiterating that anyone presenting symptoms of the virus should seek a test.

Aucklanders who are developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 - such as a dry cough, fatigue, muscle ache or loss of taste or smell - should "assume" they have the virus and act accordingly, Hendy told The AM Show on Monday. 

"It's crucial for anyone who has been in Auckland over the last week to be really vigilant about symptoms. Assume that you've got the virus and if you develop any of the symptoms that have been listed, including things like loss of taste and smell - things that might seem relatively mild, you should go get a test," he said.

"Just assume you've been exposed." 

However, getting tested is not a legal obligation. Last week, an Australian woman made national headlines after she repeatedly refused to undergo testing throughout managed isolation - a stance that doubled the length of her stay in the facility. The woman claimed that staff had failed to provide enough evidence to corroborate the safety of the nasal swab. It was later revealed that the woman had starred in a series of YouTube videos with notorious conspiracy theorist and self-professed COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, Karen Brewer.

A small group of students at Papatoetoe High School - the school at the centre of Auckland's existing cluster - also made a "conscious choice" not to get swabbed, according to principal Vaughan Couillault. 

It's a decision that does not sit well with Goff, the Mayor pointedly calling out those who refuse to undergo testing - and those who continue to uphold baseless claims that COVID-19 does not exist. 

"I've got a message for those people that say COVID-19 doesn't exist, and the Australian woman that said 'I won't get a test' - I'm sorry, you're not living on this planet," Goff told The AM Show.

"We just don't have room for people who hold to views that put everyone else at risk. There are some people that deliberately break the rules, there are some that do it inadvertently or irresponsibly - but all of those people have got to come onboard."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has slammed people who continue to maintain baseless claims that COVID-19 isn't real.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has slammed people who continue to maintain baseless claims that COVID-19 isn't real. Photo credit: RNZ

However, he disagreed that a punitive regime would work as a deterrent, despite calls by some - including The AM Show host Duncan Garner - to introduce penalties for those who fail to adhere to public health measures. 

"If you do [implement] a punitive regime, all you do is drive them underground and people don't come forward," Goff argued. "It's not a case about being soft or hard - it's working a system in a way it gets the best results."

Hendy said an extension of Auckland's lockdown is possible if cases that crop up cannot be clearly linked to the existing cluster.

"Over the next couple of days we'll be watching that information really closely," he said. "Potentially we're looking at a reasonably large number of secondary cases.

"The situation is not good."