Coronavirus: Minister urges potential COVID patients to 'tell the truth' after struggling to confirm latest case at Middlemore

A person who tested positive for COVID-19 at Middlemore Hospital on Thursday wasn't initially forthcoming with information, the Associate Health Minister has claimed.

The person arrived at the Otahuhu hospital's emergency department for an unrelated issue, the Ministry of Health said in a statement late on Thursday night. A test was done, and it came back positive - but not until after the patient had already discharged themselves. 

"That person I understand is now in quarantine, and those who were considered close contacts - in other words, some of the patients on the ward - are now in isolation," Peeni Henare told The AM Show on Friday.

The patient's initial answers suggested they were not at risk of COVID-19 - not reporting any related symptoms or presence at any locations of interest.

"My understanding is that as their time there drew out, we were able to draw more information from that particular person," said Henare. 

"So when they first presented, of the initial questions that they were asked it appeared there were no COVID links, however as that person stayed a little bit longer more came out and those precautions were taken. 

"And sadly they self-discharged, but we were able to track them down reasonably quickly and make sure now that we investigate where that person has been. That work is ongoing."

The NZ Herald reports the case is a woman, and there are 36 close contacts at the hospital. 

Henare said people need to "tell the truth and be quite open" with healthcare staff, with COVID-19 still a very real threat in Auckland. While the number of cases picked up each day has been falling thanks to the strict lockdown, not all of them have been definitively linked to the cluster known to have emerged from a mystery leak from a managed isolation facility. 

"It is a little unfortunate… we still want people to come forward for those who are unwell, to seek treatment, but of course we need to remind ourselves that COVID-19 is still in our community and we need people to be upfront about that." 

How many other close contacts there might be and any new locations of interest are still being investigated. Henare said more information should be available later on Friday.

"Whanau out there who might have had contact, we need you to come forward."