Covid 19: District health boards prepare with mini-MIQs for infected visitors

By Rowan Quinn of RNZ

Just two motel units have been set aside in Queenstown for people who might need help to isolate with Covid despite tens of thousands of Aucklanders about to hit town, mayor Jim Boult says.

He is worried it will not be enough to ensure people can isolate safely while holidaying in town.

Mini-MIQs are being set up all over the country in places that do not already have them in case people cannot isolate where they live or are staying.

Boult said two motel units were clearly not enough for Queenstown.

He had asked the Southern District Health Board to get a larger facility ready, especially because it was only about 10 days before Aucklanders would start arriving in numbers.

Most people with Covid-19 now isolate at home if they are well enough.

But that is not always possible if their house is too crowded or if they are in their last couple of days at a campground, motel or Airbnb.

Boult said many hoteliers had contacted him, anxious about what they would do if a guest had Covid-19.

“Obviously they can’t get in an aeroplane and fly back to Auckland so they need to be isolated,” he said.

Hoteliers did not want positive cases to stay and risk exposing staff or other guests to the virus.

Southern DHB chief executive Chris Fleming told a board meeting on Tuesday that specialised accommodation in Queenstown was very limited and the board realised it would need to add more.

He was meeting Boult and business leaders on Thursday to discuss a plan.

While there is extra urgency in holiday areas, all the country’s district health boards are getting mini-MIQs in place.

In Northland, the DHB has already been using a small number of facilities.

Northland DHB clinical leader for community isolation Sarah Clarke said a mixture of accommodation including motel units and old hospital housing would eventually be used.

The holidays were always a busy time for Northland and houses were often packed full with visiting friends and whānau, she said.

Ideally anyone who caught Covid-19 or who was a close contact would head home to isolate but if that could not be done safely support would be available, she said.

Holidaymakers needed to play their part though.

“Please come with a plan,” she said.

That could include bringing extra food or knowing how you would get it if you had to suddenly isolate and also thinking about how you could get safely home if possible, she said.

Elsewhere, most district health boards were relying on motels as quarantine facilities with back up from full MIQs for those areas near cities that had them.

Some motels would be exclusively used for Covid-19 isolation and others would simply be areas fenced off from other guests.

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