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Ed Sheeran

Dr Rawiri Taonui Covid Maori | Explaining the Numbers and Risks in the Papatoetoe Cluster
Photo: Supplied.

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The Numbers

The numbers coming out of the Papatoetoe cluster are confusing. The reasons for this centre around the alphabetical attribution of cases of which there are now too many to continue with that, daily briefings which update some categories but not others and does so without an accompanying graphic clarifying the detail.

This update includes when each case was announced, categorises the alphabet cases into families, and presents the data tracking close family, work, and other contacts by latest updates.

Three families are affected. These appear to be among the Asian or Indian community rather than Māori and Pacific communities. Let us not engage in any racism. Māori, Pacific and tāwāhi cultural groups like the Indian, Chinese, and other Asian communities in South Auckland sharing similar socio-economic profiles and proximity to the airport and MIQ facilities face a common risk. The classification into families rather than the alphabet is to clarify the wider situation, not encourage scrutiny of the family. Let us respect their privacy as they make their way through this ordeal.

There are 11 cases in total. This makes Papatoetoe an official cluster rather than a mini-cluster. It also makes the Papatoetoe cluster the second outbreak in South Auckland, after the August 2020 Auckland Pacific – Māori OutBreak, near Auckland Airport, MIQ facilities and the Auckland Quarantine Facility at Jet Park. As recommended in August 2020, there is a fundamental need to conduct an elevated level of random testing in all cities with MIQ facilities, particularly in areas where there are vulnerable ethnic populations like South Auckland, Hamilton, and Rotorua.

Family 1

14 February. Case A is a student at Papatoetoe High School. Case B is the mother. She works at LSG Sky Chefs. Sky Chefs have a base at the Auckland Airport. This is the likely albeit unconfirmed source of the infection. Case C is the father who works in construction. All have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility. Case A and B travelled to New Plymouth and the Waikato on Waitangi weekend. We are fortunate they did not attend the dawn service at Waitangi.

dr rawiri taonui covid-19 papatoetoe update - supplied-396

Photo Supplied.

Note: n/a not available

Family 2

17 February. Case D is a classmate, of Case A. Case E is their sibling. Both are students at Papatoetoe High School.

18 February. Case F is a third member of the household.

19 February. Case G is another household contact.

22 February. Case H is another member of this household. They initially returned a negative test, were transferred to MIQ as a precaution and subsequently tested positive.

Testing Families 1 and 2

Testing has cleared most of the close contacts of the first two families, their other close contacts at the high school and the Sky Chef workplace. The wider Sky Chef staff numbers have not been updated in four days.

Family 3

23 February. Case I is a student at Papatoetoe High School. Case J is a teenage sibling. They recently finished school and work at Kmart Botany. Case K is an infant member of the household.

Testing Family Three

Testing data for the close contacts of family three and their work contacts have not come through. There is a risk of further cases.

Papatoetoe High School

All but six students from 1493 other staff and students at Papatoetoe High School have been tested. After the most recent cases, they are being tested again. There is a moderate risk of further cases.


Numbers tested at Kmart have not come through.

Sheraton MIQ

Testing/clearing of staff and clients at the Sheraton, which is a possible source of the infection, is nearly complete.

Locations of Interest

There has been no update on the testing of people who visited locations of interest. This omission creates uncertainty in vulnerable communities.

Further Cases?

There may be further cases. Widespread testing in Auckland has not shown evidence of a wider outbreak. Testing of wastewater in Papatoetoe supports this, although overseas experience shows that the wastewater testing can miss small, localised outbreaks as the virus breakdowns into smaller particles on their way through the system.

Was the government right to drop from an Alert level 3 to Alert level 2? The reasoning for what was a calculated decision was sound, albeit under what appeared to be an unnecessary self-inflicted pressure to appear in charge. Staying at Level 3 for another week was the best chance to stamp this event out. The plan to re-open Papatoetoe High School this past Monday was unwise. There is a risk of more cases, few not many, but with the risk that the outbreak has moved beyond Papatoetoe, a step toward something larger. Fingers crossed this is not so.

Noho haumaru - stay safe and self-sovereign.

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