Infecting each other 'ticket out' of MIQ

Two weeks into their MIQ stay, and with 24 more days ahead of them, are (clockwise from left)...
Clockwise from left are Casey, Sam (11), Luca (9), and Maya (5) Williamson, of Dunedin. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
"Getting Covid in here is your ticket to get out."

Dunedin woman Casey Williamson, who is staying in a quarantine facility with her family, says the practice of trying to contract Covid-19 to ensure a shorter stay there is widespread within her facility.

The Ministry of Health said it did not recommend the practice.

Five days after returning from a trip to Australia on January 16, Mrs Williamson entered the Novotel Ellerslie managed isolation and quarantine facility in Auckland with her husband and three daughters after one of the girls returned a positive Covid test.

While those who test positive for Covid are required to spend 14 days in quarantine, family members who are staying with them but not testing positive need to isolate for a further 10 days after this.

Mrs Williamson said the idea of catching the disease to avoid the extra 10 days in isolation was a common topic of conversation among quarantine residents.

"Us and everyone in our facility that we talk to outside, the No 1 thing people say is ‘try and spread the virus as soon as you can because I don’t think you guys realise you could be in here for months’."

While staff at the facility had not been actively encouraging people to contract Covid-19, they had made it clear that it would not be a bad outcome.

"The nurses were like ‘the sooner you test positive the better’, but they didn’t say to us ‘infect each other’; that was advice from other families."

A Ministry of Health spokesman said it did not recommend that anybody deliberately try to contract Covid-19.

Uninfected quarantine residents staying with infected family members would be considered "bubble close contacts", and could face lengthy stays in quarantine.

Bubble close contacts need to complete a further 10 days of isolation after their last exposure to the case.

Health staff were working with quarantined groups to help make decisions on whether to split bubbles, allowing some uninfected people to shift to rooms away from the Covid-19 patient and be released after 10 days of continued negative tests.