Rydges Hotel is one of the Auckland CBD hotels that is used as a Covid-19 MIQ facility. Photo / Dean Purcell
National is calling on the Government to move the Covid-19 quarantine and manage isolation facilities from downtown Auckland as a way to protect New Zealand’s largest city from a future lockdown.
Chris Bishop, party spokesman for the Covid-19 response, said this could be in the form of a purpose-built facility on the outskirts of Auckland.
There are currently 5,583 people in managed isolation facilities and 76 in quarantine, many of which are housed in facilities within Auckland’s CBD.
The downtown hotels currently used for MIQ are Pullman, Stamford Plaza, Rydges, M Social, and Grand Millennium.
“The recent Pullman hotel case shows how much risk Auckland is from another community outbreak due to ingrained problems with MIQ,” Bishop said.
“New Zealand can’t afford to let yo-yoing in and out of lockdown and the Auckland economy can’t afford to continue bleeding more than $ 30 million a day.”
Bishop said the Victorian government is currently planning a cabin-style hub outside Melbourne’s CBD to replace its MIQ hotel following a recent outbreak that led to a lockdown.
“This facility will likely be a village with a pre-built one-story building with a separate ventilation system for each room. The returnees share the facilities but do not have the same roof,” he said.
“Having plenty of fresh air reduces the risk of airborne transmission among returnees, while an isolated location makes it harder for the virus to find its way to densely populated urban areas where it can spread more quickly.”
National believes a similar facility should be built on vacant lots near Auckland Airport, Bishop said and called for an investigation to begin immediately.
These costs can be covered by contributions from the Government, the private sector and payments made by returning New Zealand residents.
“A purpose-built facility may prove expensive but the costs will be reduced due to the economic impact which makes Auckland more locked up,” Bishop said.
“The government must act now to address the problem before the Covid-19 outbreak forces another lockdown. We have more than enough wake-up calls.”
University of Otago Public Health professors Nick Wilson and Michael Baker have called for the closure of the MIQ facility in Auckland “to protect major economic centers” and eliminate the use of shared space at the facility.
“It is clear that New Zealand will need MIQ facilities for some time to come with mass vaccination not possible until the end of the year,” Bishop said.
“We have done well to prevent Covid-19 from spreading, but it will come at a price. Maintaining this effort will require innovative thinking, especially as the virus mutates.
Bishop said if done right, the new facility could be turned into housing once it has served its original purpose.