Community cases highlight MIQ system failures

The two new community cases of COVID-19 connected to the Pullman Hotel have highlighted several system failures that the Government must urgently address.

“Something is clearly wrong at the Pullman. The whole point of MIQ is that you don’t catch COVID-19 there,” National’s Covid-19 Response Spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“It’s now critical that everyone who was at the Pullman Hotel at the same time as these latest cases get tested. It’s extremely worrying that the Health Ministry has still not been able to contact some of these people. It needs to explain why this is taking so long.

“National has been concerned for months about the laxity of MIQ and the potential for people to catch COVID-19 there. Stories coming out of these facilities have cast doubt on whether the right protocols are in place, and whether they are being followed.

“There is still evidence of cohort mingling in MIQ facilities, where recent arrivals are able to mix and mingle with people coming towards the end of their stay. That doesn’t make sense.”

National is calling on the Government to urgently review all MIQ facilities – not just The Pullman Hotel – and let the New Zealand public know what changes will be made, Mr Bishop says.

“The Government should adopt a risk-based approach in our MIQ facilities. This means segmenting arrivals depending on where they have come from, placing arrivals from high-risk areas, such as the UK, US and South Africa, into their own dedicated hotels.”

The Health Ministry’s decision not to release the names of at least two businesses visited by the Northland community case was also the wrong move, Mr Bishop says.

“Transparency is critical here. The Government shut down hairdressers during the lockdown but doesn’t seem to be concerned about them now. Likewise, why should people who visited The Warehouse be tested, but not people who have been to a hairdresser?”