Otago quarantines: National blasts 'disgraceful' lack of consultation

Hamilton will soon be ready to quarantine returning Kiwis and Dunedin and Queenstown are also being looked as centres where people can isolate.

Cabinet Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb are giving a press conference on the Government's Covid-19 response.

On Health Minister David Clark's resignation and whether she had been distracted by him, Woods said they had worked constructively together.

There are 24 quarantine and managed isolation facilities right now, which will be increased to 27 next week, Webb said.

Webb said there are 5305 in quarantine and managed isolation facilities, and current capacity was 6058.

Next week the number expected in quarantine and managed isolation facilities is 6481, while the capacity will be 6774.

More Defence Force and government personnel were also being brought on to shore up the end-to-end system.

Megan Woods was grilled on the issue this morning. Photo: Getty Images
Megan Woods. Photo: Getty Images
Next week the priority will be to reinstate compassionate exemptions, Woods said.

"It is our absolute priority to ensure these can safely go ahead."

Woods said the criteria for compassionate leave was being reviewed, including how long someone needs to be in a facility and whether they need a negative test before leave could be granted.

Whether someone granted leave could self-isolate in the community after leaving for the remainder of the 14-day period was something still being considered, she said.

"These are exemptions. There are about exceptional circumstances."

There are also more people in facilities, and safety would be the chief priority in any compassionate leave.

Woods said daily information sheets will be available, including how many are in quarantine and managed isolation facilities, and the inflow and outflow of people, as well as testing data.

Samples from hotels will also be fast-tracked, particularly for day 12 tests, she said.

Wastewater will be sampled at the Jetpark Hotel from next week as well.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said says the council is searching for a non-residential central city...
Dunedin is being investigated as a new quarantine spot for Kiwis returning from overseas. Photo ODT

Dunedin and Queenstown the next quarantine spots?

Woods said she and Air Commodore Digby Webb had also been looking at establishing managed isolation facilities in two southern centres.

"We're also looking at other centres where we may have to stand up facilities," she said.

"We're investigating the feasibility of Queenstown and Dunedin as other centres where returnees can safely stay in managed isolation as they join us in our coveted position in this global pandemic."

Hamilton is also being considered for new managed isolation facilities, Woods says.

National Party Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said many of the 11,000 people arriving in the country could be quarantined in the South without community consultation.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful that the community hasn’t been consulted on this,” Mr Walker says.

Hamish Walker
Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says the lack of consultation with the community is 'outrageous'. Photo: Supplied
“These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea.”

“I’ve already had many calls, texts and emails from residents who do not want people in quarantine in Queenstown.”

“I know for a fact Queenstown does not have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to undertake this.”

“All it takes is one person with Covid-19 leaving without permission and we are back at square one.”

“We need appropriate safeguards in place before quarantining people in the south, which with the Government’s track record, has not been sufficient to date.”

“The Government needs to reassure the community there are proper safety and security protocols in place before these people arrive.”

Last week Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said stringent safeguards would be required before he accepted that his region would not be placed at risk from Covid-19 again.

Mr Boult said Queenstown Lakes, which had had 87 Covid-19 cases, did not want any more.

Mayor Jim Boult
Queenstown-Lakes Mayor Jim Boult
Aaron Hawkins is New Zealand's only Green Party mayor. Peter McIntosh/ODT
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins. Peter McIntosh/ODT
"We haven’t had any for a long time and we want to keep it that way."

A large number of New Zealanders are expected to return home from overseas in the next few weeks, stretching quarantine facilities to breaking point.

The minister in charge, Housing Minister Megan Woods, previously said there was capacity for 4607 beds or spaces for managed isolation in facilities in Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said the city would also want assurances any people who came south for quarantine did so at minimal risk to the community.

"The Dunedin City Council will consider any request should one eventuate," he said.

"We’d want to be a part of any discussions around quarantining returning New Zealanders here, to make sure it was done in a way that kept both them and our wider community safe."

 - additional reporting NZ Herald

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