2 Jul 2020

Govt to look at reinstating compassionate leave for those in Covid-19 isolation

2:11 pm on 2 July 2020

The government will next week look at the reinstatement of compassionate leave for those in managed isolation.

Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb have given an update on the country's Covid-19 isolation and quarantine system.

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Woods said the reinstatement of compassionate exemptions and the work required to do that would be a priority for the government next week.

"We know this is a matter of enormous concern for those people who are seeking these exemptions.

"It is also of public concern and it is our absolute priority to ensure that these can safely go ahead."

Woods said there were issues around how people got to their destinations and compliance when they got there.

She said they would have to plan for a range of scenarios.

Woods said they had also been working with ESR and the Ministry of Health to prioritise a fast-lane at the labs for samples that are sent from the isolation hotels, particularly the day-12 samples so they can make sure the results are back by the day-14 release.

By next week, they aim to have the appropriate testing equipment installed to monitor the wastewater at the Jet Park Hotel, where New Zealand's current active cases have been quarantined.

Woods and Air Commodore Webb visited Hamilton yesterday to meet with iwi, the mayor, DHB, police and NZDF, hotel staff and clinical staff to discuss using facilities in the city.

She said they visited one of the hotels that currently stood up and a future hotel that will come online soon.

She said they were also looking at other centres where they may need to stand up other facilities. Queenstown and Dunedin are being considered and they will be visiting those centres next week.

There are currently 24 managed isolation and quarantine facilities in four different regions.

Air Commodore Webb said they planned to increase that to 27 over the next week.

Webb said as of today there has been 24,710 New Zealanders return and go through managed isolation and quarantine home since 26 March.

There are currently 5305 people in managed isolation and quarantine.

"That gives us a excess capacity of 753," he said.

Over the next seven days there is projected to be another 1176 people in isolation, bringing the total number to 6481. However the capacity is projected to be 6774 by then, with a projected net capacity of 293.

There is currently 288 NZ Defence Force personnel across the 24 facilities that are providing 24/7 coverage across shift rotations.

"All parts of government are supporting this critical mission, just as we did during alert levels 3 and 4."

Webb said they were continuing to work closely with Air NZ on managing arrival flows and how the private sector could help with booking systems.

Webb revealed that a fire alarm went off at one of the managed isolation facilities in Auckland at around 9.30am this morning. He said those inside the building were evacuated safely and it was a false alarm.

In Covid-19 developments today, there have been two new cases reported in managed isolation, although the number of active cases has fallen to 18.

Meanwhile, David Clark has formally resigned as minister of health after recent controversies in his handling of the response to the novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed with the decision.

And principals want foreign teachers exempted from the border ban so they can plug staffing gaps caused by the teacher shortage.

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