NZ health officials condemn ‘hostile’ social media attacks on virus family

Covid-19 tests
Covid-19 tests ... 1100-1500 a day being carried out, with a new MoH team on the job. Image: RNZ/AFP

Pacific Media Centre

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) staff are calling for restraint and calm as a New Zealand family in isolation for Covid-19 coronavirus has been “battered through social media”.

ARPHS Director Dr William Rainger said the family had done everything right and had minimised the risk to others.

“The woman with the virus has gone straight into isolation with her family when she was told she was suspected of having Covid-19,” he said.

READ MORE: NZ students pulled from two schools after second Covid-19 case

“Yet they have become the focus of sustained and abusive bullying on social media and are being hounded by the media.

“There is a high level of anxiety and concern in the school and wider communities, but it is not acceptable to attack people who have been caught up in this global outbreak. They have taken all the right actions to protect others,” Dr Rainger said.

“As a public health service, we are worried that such attacks will lead people to hide any illness that might be Covid-19, and not seek medical attention.

“We will not be able to contain the spread of this illness, if the public response is so hostile towards cases and their families,” he said.

Support needed
The Ministry of Health also supported the ARPHS message.

“I want to say that this is a Kiwi family that has been affected by a virus that is part of a worldwide outbreak,” said Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

“What they need is support and understanding. Our task is to ensure they have all the support and health care they need.”

Two children have been withdrawn from two Auckland high schools because a family member has contracted the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Dr Bloomfield said a woman in her 30s was New Zealand’s second confirmed case of the virus.

She had returned to Auckland from northern Italy last week on a flight via Singapore.

The two children who live with her attend Westlake Boys and Westlake Girls high schools.

Dr Bloomfield said it was highly unlikely they would have spread to the virus to other students.

ARPHS media release and RNZ under a partnership agreement with the Pacific Media Centre.

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