Parliament occupation camp considered a ‘place of interest’ due to spread of Covid-19

A man bows as he shakes hands with New Zealand's first leader Winston Peters during his tour of the tent city on the grounds of Parliament on Tuesday.

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

A man bows as he shakes hands with New Zealand’s first leader Winston Peters during his tour of the tent city on the grounds of Parliament on Tuesday.

The Parliament occupation camp has been deemed a ‘place of interest’ by health officials due to the spread of Covid-19, potentially affecting hundreds of people who visited the site over the weekend. end.

The occupation site, which spans the grounds of Parliament and many adjacent streets, was designated a Covid-19 problem by health officials on Thursday morning. People at occupancy between Saturday 11:55 a.m. and 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. are at risk of exposure to Covid-19, and considered close contacts.

“Self-isolate for seven days, test on the fifth day after being exposed to this location of interest. Monitor symptoms for 10 days. Test again if you don’t feel well,” said the Health Ministry advisory, released on Thursday morning.

Under the government’s Omicron Phase 2, in place from midday Thursday, people considered close contacts should self-isolate for seven days and take a Covid-19 test on the fifth day of that period. of isolation.

Teenagers play basketball at the site of the occupation on the grounds of Parliament.

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Teenagers play basketball at the site of the occupation on the grounds of Parliament.

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However, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday that the government would move the country into Phase 3 of Omicron’s response from midnight due to rising cases. . There were more than 6,000 cases of Covid-19 recorded on Thursday – an increase from the nearly 3,300 recorded on Wednesday.

Under Phase 3, the definition of close contact would change to household contact, or “household-like” contact, meaning that those frequenting places of occupancy might not be required to isolate from midnight Thursday.

The definition of close contact has become more ambiguous as the spread of Omicron has increased, and Hipkins said Thursday that more people are being asked to assess the risk to themselves if they have been exposed to the virus. .

“It is important to note that this is who is required by law to self-isolate. This does not mean that people who believe they have been exposed should not self-isolate if they are able to do so,” Hipkins said. noted.

“If you are a household contact… You are required to self-isolate. If you have a friend who has Covid-19, you can judge whether you think you would be at risk based on the nature of the contact you have had, or a work colleague.

It is understood that police and other emergency services personnel who worked at the scene of the occupation were not considered close contacts, as they were wearing personal protective equipment.

The Department of Health confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that there had been at least two cases of Covid-19 associated with the protest, and police previously said that officers who worked on the occupation of Parliament had been tested positive for the virus. Thing understands that five officers at the protest site have tested positive.

The Ministry of Health declined to confirm whether other cases of Covid-19 linked to the demonstration had been identified on Thursday morning. A ministry staff member referred the question to the regional public health office, which has yet to respond.

The connection of Covid-19 cases to protesters in Parliament came in a week when the number of protesters declined and there was an increase in confrontation with police.

Two weeks into the occupation, police pushed back crowds of occupied people to lay concrete blocks on the road – preventing new vehicles from joining the blockade.

As of Thursday morning, around 375 vehicles remained at the occupation site, along with countless tents erected on the Parliament Buildings and other nearby grounds.

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