Dunedin pathology lab worker has Covid

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A Dunedin pathology lab worker has tested positive for Covid-19.

It comes as the country's laboratories are under pressure to analyse high numbers of tests, with daily cases of the highly transmissible variant Omicron rising rapidly.

The infected worker is employed by Southern Community Laboratory which is owned by Asia Pacific Healthcare Group, the country's biggest Covid-19 tester.

A company spokesperson said the worker got a positive result from a rapid antigen test on Friday, which was then confirmed by a PCR test. They said it was the first positive case in an SCL lab worker, and while the variant hadn't been confirmed, were treating it as though it was Omicron.

The case is being managed by Public Health and no other staff have had to isolate under the Ministry of Health's guidelines for healthcare workers.

The spokesperson said the risk of catching Covid-19 from a sample was extremely low, and there had not been any internationally reported laboratory-acquired cases.

"Like a lot of healthcare settings with stringent disease prevention measures, you're less likely to get Covid in a laboratory than you are out in public," they said.

New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science president Terry Taylor said it was "totally expected" for there to be positive cases in lab workers, just like anyone else.

He said while it would affect testing capacity, colleagues would fill in the gaps as best they could.

"It is going to be disruptive and when our staff do start falling down with the virus, it's just like any workplace, we're going to be down staff members and the rest of us once again will attempt to step up," Taylor said.

"But that will again put a bit of stress on the system as well, not just the Covid testing side of it but also our wider laboratory testing."

Apex Union medical laboratory workers president Bryan Raill said he had not heard of any other positive cases in lab workers.

However, he said lab workers had isolated after finding out they were close contacts, just like other members of the community.

Raill said while it could add to the pressure labs were already under, each facility would already have plans in place for when this happened.

"I don't think we should be unnecessarily worried about it," he said.

"With the prevalence of Omicron and the spread we will see in many workplaces, including in our laboratories, that people become symptomatic and unable to attend work."