Sport team isolation proposal advances in resort

Mayor Jim Boult
Mayor Jim Boult. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

An ambitious plan to allow international sports teams to train while isolating in Queenstown is a step closer to reality.

A Southern District Health Board (SDHB) meeting yesterday was told plans were in place for the organisation to provide medical services, should teams come to the town to spend their 14-day Covid-19 mandatory isolation period before competing.

District health board chief executive Chris Fleming yesterday said the organisation had worked with the Ministries of Health and Business, Innovation and Employment on the proposal.

"It would be a sporting managed isolation facility based in Queenstown for the purposes of providing isolation for sporting teams that are relocating," Mr Fleming told an SDHB meeting yesterday.

"The most obvious one is rugby, if New Zealand goes ahead with the Rugby Championship ... but I think there is interest from cricket, netball and tennis."

Any risk to Queenstown would be low as all teams would have to have isolated in their own country before arriving in New Zealand, would arrive in the country via chartered plane, and would go into isolation once here.

Mr Fleming said there was no guarantee the scheme would go ahead, but the SDHB was planning for an involvement — if needed — from early October in what would be privately managed facilities.

"We need to be given a commitment of timeframe so we don’t have to turn something on and then off.

"We will only be accountable for the health components of it.

"We will not have to deal with security and catering.

"We will deal with the public health response."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday an international sports series in New Zealand was a "real possibility" and there had been discussions about New Zealand hosting international sporting tournaments.

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult said discussions had taken place with New Zealand Rugby about teams isolating and then being based in the town should the Rugby Championship go ahead.

Queenstown had proposed South Africa, Australia and Argentina be based in separate hotels, a plan which would result in about 200 hotel rooms being occupied for two months.

"That’s a very attractive piece of business for us at the present time."

The hotels would operate similarly to the way Australia hotels had hosted New Zealand sports teams the Warriors and the Wellington Phoenix, keeping the team in its own self-contained bubble.

Mr Boult said all travelling players and staff would be tested for Covid-19 before arriving in New Zealand, and regularly tested after arrival.

No training would be permitted in the first week, while in the second week a pop-up gym would be provided as well as a training paddock, which would be inaccessible to the public and the other teams.

Mr Fleming also told the board that the SDHB had developed a wider response plan to manage any resurgence of Covid-19 in the region.

Staff had designed systems to react to several different scenarios if the virus was discovered again in the South, from a few cases up to a situation where 30 or more cases were being detected each day.

"We have put a lot of time and energy into the development of resurgence plans," he said.

"The team recognises we would do some things differently should the disease come back again

... Last time some people were sent home far too quickly and maybe others we should have seen for longer."

Plans had been drawn up for public health capacity, primary care, rural and DHB hospitals, mental health and aged care.

The public care, primary care and aged care plans were the furthest advanced.

"In aged care we are trying to get a roster schedule now where we could cope with Covid breaking out in one aged care facility in Dunedin or one aged care facility in Invercargill, where we could either put staff into those facilities or relocate the residents," Mr Fleming said.

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