The Pacific Islander family who sparked a second wave of coronavirus in New Zealand has been inundated with online abuse in recent days as a fresh outbreak of new infections grows.
New Zealand recorded 13 new cases on Sunday, five days after an Auckland family sparked a stage three lockdown across the city by testing positive.
All but one of the 13 latest cases is linked to the one cluster in Auckland, which has grown to 49.
The other was a child in quarantine who arrived from Afghanistan earlier this month.
Pacific health leader Dr Colin Tukuitonga has been regular contact with the family at the centre of the cluster since they tested positive on Tuesday.
The family, consisting of three adults and a young child are now in quarantine at isolation facility, where they’re extremely distressed over the vile comments and rumours being posted about them for unwittingly spreading the virus.
There are also rumours a young woman linked the family snuck into a managed isolation facility, which officials have since insist are false.
‘It’s not easy. The comments on social media have turned nasty,’ Dr Tukuitonga told the New Zealand Herald.
‘They were shell-shocked that this had happened and they were a little embarrassed that it had happened to them.’
The family were New Zealand’s first locally transmitted cases of coronavirus in 102 days.
The cluster was sparked by a frozen storage facility employee who passed the virus onto three family members, which spread into the community.
New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins issued a stern warning to online trolls targeting the family.
‘At a time we are fighting a pandemic, this sort of behaviour is designed to create panic … and is completely unacceptable,’ he told reporters.
‘It’s clear there are people out there who are pushing it hard and my message to them is stop doing it.’
He urged Kiwis to only obtain information from official sources and to think twice before sharing unverified information
‘Please treat the information you are receiving on social media as a rumour,’ Ms Hipkins pleaded.
Of the 69 active cases in New Zealand, 49 are from the community outbreak in Auckland.
The other 20 were detected in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
Auckland is under stage three lockdown until August 26, where residents can only leave their homes for essential purposes.
The rest of New Zealand will remain under stage two.
More than 63,231 COVID-19 tests have been processed across the last three days, which the minister described as an ‘exceptional effort’.