Wellington Scoop

From France via Townsville and Brisbane … to Wellington

by Lindsay Shelton
Wellington has its first case of coronavirus (now called covid-19.) We’ve been able to track it because the patient himself has told us all the details.

Extraordinarily, the news was first published by the NZHerald, with direct quotes from the infected man.

Townsville man Andre Reynaud confirmed that he had tested positive for Covid-19 … Reynaud had returned to Australia on Tuesday after a trip to France. He was tested by Queensland health officials on Thursday because he had been overseas. Then he and his wife flew from Brisbane to Wellington on Friday, arriving at 12.05am on 14 March on Air NZ 828.
“I am currently in self-isolation in the hotel in Wellington,” he told the Herald. “I went to meet my son for breakfast at a nearby cafe when I got a call from my doctor confirming I tested positive. From there I went straight back to my hotel room and got in contact with health authorities.” He says he feels fine and is not showing any symptoms.

When the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield later confirmed Reynaud was the seventh case in New Zealand, he did not name the man. But he said

It was disappointing that he took the flight in the first place. At best it may have inconvenienced people or at worst put people at harm.

And today Dr Bloomfield confirmed that the man remains symptom-free, and his two family members are both well.

Dr Bloomfield also confirmed that passengers who sat near the Australian on the flight to Wellington are being contacted and asked to self isolate.

There’s still no information about what hotel the man is staying in, and whether other guests in the hotel have been informed.

However the cafe visited by the man on Saturday has been informed and has decided to close as a precaution, with a message for customers on its Facebook page.

A Wellington.Scoop reader claimed the man came to New Zealand because his son was performing in a show at the NZ Festival. But the festival says the man did not attend any shows:

Please share for audience care/peace of mind: COVID CASE DID NOT ATTEND NZ FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS PERFORMANCE.

Reports from Townsville show that four work colleagues of Mr Reynaud are in self-isolation for two weeks.

And some facts from an international epidemiologist, reported in the Guardian, are relevant:

It is increasingly clear that transmission can occur before symptoms develop. We know this is true from modelling and observational studies. I have seen it happen myself.

I was walking on the South Coast yesterday – a perfect late summer day, helping to (briefly) put aside any thoughts of health concerns. Till we reached Owhiro Bay, where people were swimming, and a child was playing in the polluted stream – with no signs on the beach warning of pollution.


The only warning signs are alongside the footpath – facing away from the beach. Wellington Water may have improved its verbal communications by hiring Sweeney Vesty. But they need to get their act together at Owhiro Bay, and make it much more evident that the stream is polluted.

This article has been amended since it was first published, to include new information.


  1. Clint Smith, 16. March 2020, 13:04

    it worries me that our Covid testing seems very relaxed. Seems the staff and other customers at the cafe the Australian went to aren’t being tested. [via twitter] {The cafe has just announced its decision to close, as a precaution.}

  2. KC&CO, 16. March 2020, 13:15

    I’m not worried at all Clint. We need to stop panicking. It’s more dangerous driving about, with just over a fatality a day. Should we ban everybody from driving? Of course not!

  3. Dave B, 16. March 2020, 19:38

    KC&CO. If we are to be consistent and take road deaths as seriously as we take Coronavirus deaths then yes, we should ban driving. Or at least apply sufficient restrictions on driving to end the toll of death and injury.

    It is incongruous how prepared we are to impose draconian measures to halt or slow the spread of the virus, yet we are totally unwilling to do the same to stamp out the road toll. Our failure to clamp down on road transport costs 300-400 lives every year in NZ (1.3 million lives globally), and many more times that number of life-changing injuries. The effects of Covid-19 will have to get much much worse to equate to this.

  4. David Mackenzie, 17. March 2020, 7:08

    I am confused about terminology. I thought quarantine was a period of isolation as a precaution against risk of transmission for people who may have been exposed to a disease but were not ill. Self-isolation is isolation of those who are actually ill.

    The government rules seem to confuse these terms. Surely a person returning from overseas with no sign of the disease would be in quarantine, not self-isolation. If they develop the disease they would be in self-isolation.

  5. Katy, 17. March 2020, 8:48

    Dave B – I thought most accidents occurred at home. Well that’s what my mum tells me. Doesn’t that mean it’s safer being outside even if it’s walking, cycling or driving?

  6. N.D., 17. March 2020, 12:02

    This article is worth reading on Coronavirus and the cycle of panic. It should calm people down.

  7. Neil Douglas, 17. March 2020, 12:53

    DMackenzie: ‘quarantine’ comes from 17 century Venice (a variant of the Italian quaranta giorni) meaning “forty days” which was the period Venice required for ships to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the Black Death.

  8. Dave B, 17. March 2020, 19:41

    @ Katy, you are right. Statistics apparently do show that most accidents happen in the home. But how safe you are, inside or outside, depends on what you are doing. Sure, cycling or driving may be safer than things like climbing up on to rooves, carrying loads up and down stairs, working over hot stoves or slipping off the edge of the bath (like I did).
    But for much of the time people at-home are not doing these risky things. I am sure cycling and driving are more dangerous than lying in bed, or sitting watching TV, or chilling out with a good book.

  9. luke, 18. March 2020, 0:59

    Well actually, statistics I’ve seen suggest the dangers posed by inactivity are larger than those faced by a cyclist on the road.

  10. Brendan, 18. March 2020, 8:29

    DaveB – climbing over ‘rooves’? The Government insists you put up scaffolding even for a bungalow. So its safer on top of your roof than inside it. National promises to remove this safety silliness so you don’t need to pay for irrelevant scaffolding for single storey buildings. And good on National! Lets get rid of silly OSH rules.