MIQ should be moved outside of downtown Auckland

National is calling on the Government to investigate construction of a purpose-built Covid-19 quarantine facility on the outskirts of Auckland to help safeguard against future lockdowns in our largest city.

“The recent Pullman hotel cases showed just how much risk Auckland is at of another community outbreak because of the ingrained problems with MIQ,” Mr Bishop says.

“New Zealand can’t afford to keep yo-yoing in and out of lockdown and Auckland’s economy can’t afford to keep bleeding more than $30 million per day.”

The Victorian government is currently planning a cabin-style hub outside Melbourne’s CBD to replace its MIQ hotels following a recent outbreak that lead to a lockdown. This facility will likely be a village of single-storey pre-fabricated structures with separate ventilation systems for each room. Returnees share the facility but not the same roof.

Having ample fresh air reduces the risk of airborne transmission among returnees, while the isolated location makes it harder for the virus to find its way into heavily-populated urban areas where it can spread faster. Separate on-site facilities for staff also lessens the chance of them bringing Covid-19 into the community.

National believes a similar facility should be built on vacant land near Auckland Airport and is calling for urgent investigations to begin.

The cost could be covered by contributions from the Government, private sector, and payments by returning New Zealanders, Mr Bishop says.

“A purpose-built facility may prove expensive but its cost will be dwarfed by the economic hit of putting Auckland into more lockdowns.”

Using hotels for managed isolation and quarantine has proven problematic, which is why experts have long suggested purpose-built facilities, Mr Bishop says

Professors Michael Baker and Nick Wilson recently itemised at least 10 border control failures since July 2020 and at least five internal MIQ facility failures. Both noted that hotels have inherent problems with shared spaces and inadequate ventilation.

“It’s clear that New Zealand will need MIQ facilities for some time to come with mass vaccination unlikely until the end of the year,” Mr Bishop says.

“We have done well to keep Covid-19 from taking hold but this has come at great cost. Maintaining this effort will require innovative thinking, particularly as the virus mutates.

“If done right, the new Auckland quarantine facility could be converted into much-needed housing once it has served its initial purpose. The demand for this facility will not expire.

“The Government should act now to get ahead of the problem before another Covid-19 outbreak forces yet another lockdown. We have had more than enough wake-up calls.”