Coronavirus: How a wedding reception in Bluff created NZ’s biggest Covid

Coronavirus: How a wedding reception in Bluff created NZ's biggest Covid
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CCoronavirus: How a wedding reception in Bluff created NZ’s biggest COVID On March 21, four days before New Zealand went into lockdown, the country’s coronavirus tally was at 52 and the health ministry announced that community transmission may have begun.

On the same day, a Southland couple got married in Invercargill before enjoying the reception at Bluff’s Oyster Cove Restaurant with about 65 guests.

On March 21, four days before New Zealand went into lockdown, the country’s coronavirus tally was at 52 and the health ministry announced that community transmission may have begun.

On the same day, a Southland couple got married in Invercargill before enjoying the reception at Bluff’s Oyster Cove Restaurant with about 65 guests.

The happy couple had a lovely wedding day with family and friends, enjoying nice food, views over Foveaux Strait and dancing until about 10.30 pm.

At the time, events and functions with fewer than 100 people could still go ahead.

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The Salvation Army is also seeing large numbers of people who have never before sought its service.

Despite this, there had been concerns about proceeding with the wedding, including from the bride and groom and Oyster Cove director Ross Jackson.

READ MORE:

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  • Coronavirus: Wedding cluster grows to 73 cases

Jackson would later tell Radio New Zealand he was hesitant to host the wedding which is now linked to New Zealand’s biggest COVID-19 cluster, with 87 cases as of Thursday.

He said the restaurant staff took precautions, with sanitizers placed at the entrances and surfaces wiped down during the evening.

The wedding is now linked to New Zealand’s biggest COVID-19 cluster, with 87 cases as of Thursday.
JOHN HAWKINS/STUFF
The wedding is now linked to New Zealand’s biggest COVID-19 cluster, with 87 cases as of Thursday.
The bride and groom had considered postponing their big day but didn’t because it would have meant the groom’s father could not attend at a later date for travel reasons.

Some invited guests had decided against attending due to COVID-19 concerns and others present greeted each other with elbow touches and smiles rather than hugs.

But it was not enough – a man at the wedding had COVID-19 and the silent spread had begun.

The day after the Bluff reception, many of the wedding guests met at the newly married couple’s Invercargill home for a garden party before returning to their respective homes in both the North and South Island.

Oyster Cove Restaurant manager Ross Jackson was hesitant to host the event, but at the time events of fewer than 100 people were allowed.
REBECCA MOORE/STUFF
Oyster Cove Restaurant manager Ross Jackson was hesitant to host the event, but at the time events of fewer than 100 people were allowed.
Four days later, the married couple was told by the male guest he had tested positive, and they soon learned more guests were sick.

Within another six days, on March 31, the health ministry announced that three new COVID-19 cases in Southland, and five previously confirmed cases, had been linked to the Bluff wedding, forming a “new significant cluster”.

By April 9, 19 days after the wedding, the Bluff cluster had grown to 87 cases in both the North and South Island, with at least one in hospital.

Director-general of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said the Bluff cluster was linked to international travel.

There was potential for rapid spread in clusters but he said the ability to contain them had been enhanced by the lockdown.

“We are now confident we are on top of these clusters and any additional cases are largely within bubbles within those clusters,” he said Thursday.

Some of the 87 people in the Bluff cluster did not attend the wedding but were contacts [including family members] of those that did.

The 87 live at various locations around New Zealand including Southland, and in Wellington, where 12 tested positive as part of the wedding cluster, and the Waikato where 25 tested positive.

Clusters describe a group of 10 or more cases that are linked together through a common event or gathering.

The Southern District Health Board says they are a concern because transmission can happen more quickly where people gather together, increasing the number of people who can be exposed to the disease and pass it on.

Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley says March 21 was the first day the alert level system was introduced and anyone judging the decision to hold the wedding should “walk a mile in their shoes” and be kind.
ROBYN EDIE/STUFF
Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley says March 21 was the first day the alert level system was introduced and anyone judging the decision to hold the wedding should “walk a mile in their shoes” and be kind.
The Bluff cluster has not only affected many households, but also some businesses where staff linked to the cluster had tested positive.

Among them are the Invercargill City Council – the workplace of the bride – which had about 10 staff test positive; the Silver Fern Farms deer plant at Kennington which had a 14-day precautionary stand-down period, and the Edendale milk plant which closed a distribution center.

Some social media posts have criticized the decision to hold the wedding, but council chief executive Clare Hadley said it was strange times and everyone had taken time to get to grips with the situation.

March 21 was the first day the alert level system was introduced and anyone judging the decision to hold the wedding should “walk a mile in their shoes” and be kind, Hadley said.

The Bluff wedding cluster has been in the national headlines daily, putting the small town at the bottom of the country on the map for the wrong reasons.

But ironically, there have been no reports of any Bluff residents contracting the virus, despite the waiters and bar staff who were at the reception living in the port town.

Bluff Community Board Chairman Ray Fife says no fault should be laid over the cluster and he only wanted the people with the virus to recover.
KINDA HERATH/STUFF
Bluff Community Board Chairman Ray Fife says no fault should be laid over the cluster and he only wanted the people with the virus to recover.
Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt felt it was unfair Bluff had been thrust into the spotlight given none of the wedding guests were from Bluff, saying it had caused a few ruffled feathers among residents.

The town’s community board chairman Ray Fife believed no fault should be laid over the cluster and he only wanted the people with the virus to recover.

The Bluff community was relieved no one in the town had so far got the virus but they were also concerned for the people elsewhere who had it, he said.

“The function was held in Bluff and they followed the guidelines of the time … and who would have foreseen what was going to happen.”Coronavirus: How a wedding reception in Bluff created NZ’s biggest COVID-19 cluster

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