27 Aug 2021

Delayed Covid-19 transfers affect families: 'Major issues around food supplies'

8:04 pm on 27 August 2021

Health and social services in Auckland say delays in transferring Covid-19 patients into quarantine are putting struggling families in a tight spot.

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A managed isolation and quarantine facility in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Providers say the delays are partly caused by capacity in the managed isolation and quarantine system. The prime minister admits the delays but says capacity is not an issue.

The total number of cases linked to the current community outbreak is 347. The Ministry of Health website says 145 of those are in managed facilities and 63 are at home or self-isolating.

The Fono has been providing support to households with members self-isolating. Chief executive Tevita Funaki said it was hard for some to properly isolate when there was a positive case at home.

"It's just difficult, especially those Pacific families are big families and the challenges of actually getting to isolate. How do you isolate when there're six of you or eight of you in a two-bedroom house?"

Funaki said apart from limited space, families were also in need of supplies including hygiene products and food - and it was a massive challenge.

"Even with the food supply stuff that we're trying to to supply and to try and tailor to the family and the key essentials. Some of them need medicines ... to ease the symptoms, but we've got major issues around food supplies."

Funaki said it was especially hard for families split between homes, hospital and quarantine.

"The challenge around the literacy around just the understanding of what isolations mean and how serious this Delta is, if this a positive case, how do they support that person, then those positive members of the family."

Tevita Funaki.

Tevita Funaki Photo: Supplied/Pasifika Futures

Another social service provider, Pasifika Futures, also said there had been delays.

Chief executive Debbie Sorensen said her organisation was supporting families isolating with food packages, bills, children's devices, accommodation and mental health needs.

"Certainly the delay makes you know a complex situation and families who are under pressure already feel more pressure, but you know, it's the nature of the outbreak. The outbreak is a substantially big outbreak."

Government agencies had worked well to meet increasing needs during this Delta outbreak - but things could have been better, Sorensen said.

There had been discussions about surge capacity over the past 12 months, she said.

"That capacity wasn't put in place, and so it has meant that there has been a scramble really, and the first couple of days of this outbreak to get everything up to speed."

MIQ joint head Brigadier Rose King said the team were processing referrals as soon as they received them.

"Referrals are usually received between 6-8pm at night, so it's not always possible to transfer people that same night. Two extra drivers and vans are on standby to assist if required, so we are surging in additional resource as needed," King said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were 274 quarantine rooms across the country and a further 285 available for close contacts - and more than 200 additional rooms were being made available today.

The delay was not due to capacity and a specialist team was used to carefully transport people, she said.

"We have people trained for that. We use them in our existing network for transporting people from our managed isolation facility to the Jet Park, and we're using that same team. Because we are just getting so many contacts in a new day, sometimes it's taking a bit of time to get everyone into a facility."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there was no further risk to households with a positive case as they would be isolating separate from their bubble.

Some families would be prioritised, he said.

"Sometimes the family group is quite large and so it's harder to do that, so those are the families that are prioritized for being moved and also very early on, the very first discussion is to make sure that any welfare or other needs that they may have are being met."

Bloomfield also said people who find it unsafe to isolate at home and feel they might become a case were prioritised for transfer to MIQ.

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