29 Jan 2021

Pressure mounts for full audit of MIQ network after Covid-19 community cases

5:16 am on 29 January 2021

Political pressure is mounting on the government to complete an urgent audit of the managed-isolation network after three recent returnees caught Covid-19 during their stay.

Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

No new arrivals will be taken to the Pullman Hotel as investigations continue after three people were infected with Covid. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The government response has been to once again toughen the rules surrounding all MIQ facilities.

No new arrivals will be taken to the Pullman Hotel in Auckland as investigations continue.

The cases, who were all able to enter the community while still positive, are casting a shadow over the Auckland Anniversary and Waitangi Day celebrations and will be front of mind for many people.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said at this stage, there was no cause for concern.

"At the moment, don't change your plans. If there is testing that suggests that we need to give alternative advice, that advice will be given by the Ministry of Health," he said.

It's not just Auckland Anniversary celebrations hanging in the balance, with Waitangi commemorations right around the corner.

The Māori Party isn't taking any chances and has decided not to attend this year's commemorations. All other political parties plan on attending.

"There's a lot of uncertainty and we are related and connected to a lot of those whanau up there, making real effort to keep things contained and safe when there is so much uncertainty," co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer said.

"It was an easy decision for us to make because we will always be about whakapapa first and politics second."

Health officials expect to learn more about whether Covid-19 has spread in the community beyond the three recent returnees by this afternoon.

In the meantime, National Party leader Judith Collins said the government needed to urgently review the entire MIQ network.

"The events of the last few days should never have happened.

"Anybody who has ever managed anything would say why would you have people coming in on different days to the same place, mixing, which has obviously occurred... why would you do that," Collins said.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said regular audits were already happening.

"We've been doing that on a bi-monthly basis already.

"When we have an incident, we go into that specific facility and look at their operation and we're already underway with that," she said.

Some changes have already been made - recent returnees will be tested when they first arrive at an MIQ facility and as an interim measure, all returnees will be confined to their rooms after they have had their day-12 test.

Covid-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins said officials were also looking at how the allocation of isolation rooms can be better managed.

"One of the things we will look more actively at is whether we can actually manage it so that they are on the same floors for example, so you don't have different cohorts spread across floors.

"Obviously the logistics of that create a greater challenge. If we make changes to the way we do room allocations, it is possible that we may not be able to fit quite as many people in," he said.

A follow-up test for people once they have left managed isolation is also being considered, Hipkins said.

Advice from the Ministry of Health:

  • The recent cases of Covid-19 in Auckland and Northland have been linked to Managed Isolation and Quarantine. There is no evidence so far that suggests community transmission.
  • The locations visited by the recent cases can be found on the Ministry of Health website
  • To help stamp out Covid-19, it's important the right people isolate and get tested
  • If you were at the locations of interest at the times stated, you need to: isolate away from others, call Healthline 0800 358 5453 for advice on when and where to get tested, and remain isolated until you have a negative test result
  • If you were not at a location of interest at the stated times and you have no symptoms you do not need to be tested
  • If you were not at any of the locations of interest at the stated times, but you have symptoms, call Healthline for advice on 0800 358 5453
  • If you are going to get tested, remember you may have to queue. Please take food and water and continue to be kind to each other and our public health team
  • Everyone should continue to scan QR codes using the Covid Tracer app and turn Bluetooth on to help stop the spread of Covid-19

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