Dozens of cars queue at the Malcolm St testing center in North Dunedin after students were told to get tested and isolate if they attended a Castle St party between Saturday and Tuesday.
Two Dunedin parties have been named as fresh Covid-19 locations of interest, but one appears to be a boarded-up University of Otago building on Castle St.
Students were sent a text alert by the university shortly after 11am on Thursday that if they attended a party on Castle Street between Saturday, February 12, and Tuesday, February 15, to immediately self-isolate and get tested.
The university said it was alerted to a person with Covid-19 attending parties on those dates by Public Health South, but were not told of a specific address.
At 4pm the parties were added to the Ministry of Health’s register. One entry has the address 520 Castle Street, which is a vacant building on campus.
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There were no visible signs of a party outside the address, and the front door was boarded up
The Ministry of Health was approached for comment.
Students also said they had gone to the city’s testing stations, but some were turned back because they showed no symptoms.
The Covid-19 Response Minister says people are coming forward who don’t have a reason to be tested except being worried.
That advice differed to the advice from the university, which inturn was provided by Public Health South, which urged students to be tested.
Some students said an outbreak of Covid-19 would not affect party goers, as they would simply avoid getting tested.
By 1pm on Thursday there were 15 cases of Covid-19 in Dunedin, including nine new cases.
It comes as thousands of students return to the city for the start of Orientation Week.
One party goer said there were hundreds of people on Castle St and the surrounding area during that time.
“We are all packed in tightly,” said a female resident, who declined to be named.
Getting thousands of students to self-isolate when they had just arrived in Dunedin, many to flats lacking furniture, was “impossible”, her flatmate said.
A male student, who also declined to be named, said access to food and money was too great an obstacle to risk getting a test, which could result in several weeks of self-isolation.
Because of that, and because they were vaccinated, the students said they were no longer scanning into locations.
On Sunday the Southern District Health Board sent a media release saying a Covid-19 positive student may have been at a party on the previous Saturday night.
An hour after the release, the health board retracted the student party mention, saying it was issued in error.
Fox Meyer, the 2022 editor of Critic Te Arohithe University of Otago’s student magazine, said at the time the error had created a panic among students who were partying on Saturday night.
“It was the right headline, but a week too soon,” he said.
Police have reported several large parties in Dunedin’s student quarter this week. A Monday party that attracted more than 150 people was shut down by the hosts.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins encouraged students to follow the rules to minimise the spread of the virus over the coming days.
“Now is not the time to be attending large parties or ignoring other health guidelines under our current red traffic light settings, given the heightened risk of transmission.”