17 Jun 2020

Covid-19: Novotel guest describes strict conditions since yesterday

From Checkpoint, 5:15 pm on 17 June 2020

A guest at the same hotel as two women who have been confirmed to have Covid-19 says she was only tested for the virus on Wednesday despite Health Ministry protocols to the contrary.

The two women who have since been diagnosed with Covid-19 arrived in New Zealand from the UK via Brisbane on 7 June and were in government-managed isolation at the Novotel Ellerslie Hotel in Auckland.

But on 13 June they were given a compassionate exemption to travel to Wellington after one of their parents died.

Neither woman had been tested for the virus despite rules requiring everyone be tested on day three and 12 of isolation and one of the woman having symptoms that were put down to an existing condition.

Selina Eriwata arrived on the same Brisbane flight as the two women from the UK and is 10 days into 14 days of managed isolation.

She has come home to see a terminally ill relative, but did not intend to apply for an exemption. The government suspended exemptions on compassionate grounds on Tuesday.

Selina told Checkpoint she found out about the cases from media reports and since then has not been allowed to leave her room for anything. Updates and messages come through the hotel intercom in her room.

"It's mainly been about the testing that's happening and happened, and that they appreciate our patience, that everybody will be tested today. I think some people were also tested last night.

"There's been some messages for smokers that want to go out then they call up reception, and police are all outside.

"I do know the elevators, exits and hallway are being manned, but we haven't left ever since we got the news yesterday at 3pm."

Selina was tested for Covid-19 on Wednesday about five minutes before she spoke to Checkpoint.

"We have been waiting for it since last night. I've made a couple of friends in the hotel, we've been messaging each other… they told me they had theirs last night.

"I'm glad we had ours today because last night it was a bit late. I've got two kids with me so I was kind of dreading it more for that, rather than for myself."

It was the first time they were tested, she said.

"When we arrived it was June 7 and I believe that June 9 was when that mandatory day three and day 12 testing would come into play. So I think we might have just missed that.

"However they said to us, if you want to elect to have the test done then we're more than welcome.

"They've got a nurse's station and all the Ministry of Health is all set up here, but it was never forced on to us to do it."

On day three the offer was made for a test but it was not enforced, she said.

Selina told Checkpoint she does not know if she is considered a direct contact with the two new Covid-19 cases but she did realise the two women were on the same flight as her.

"But again half the plane was full and I don't recall any two particular women."

There were about five buses from the airport to the hotel, she said.

At the hotel, they were allowed out of their rooms, but had to maintain physical distancing.

"They had staff and security all around inside and outside where we were allowed to go, making sure of this. So even though we could be outside we couldn't be really talking to other people.

"Every day we've got the nurses coming around to us and we have our temperatures checked. That's as far as it goes in terms of the daily checks. And if anybody's got any further than we've got the nurse's station downstairs we can freely go to for anything.

"They ask us if we're feeling okay today, how we're feeling, those kinds of things. Obviously all of our temperatures have come in under, every single time. But they always still ask how are we feeling, if we have any concerns or any questions.

"When we go out the front door – there's only one way in one way out – the security staff make sure they're knowing who's going out, what room we're from, they note the time that we leave.

"I think there is a limit of people who can go out at a time but with every time we've gone down we've never been told to go back, except for when there's a new flight coming in."