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New Zealand's Covid-19 isolation facilities under 'extreme stress', review finds | World news


A review of New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities has found that the system is under “extreme stress” as more and more Kiwis return home. It came as four more returnees tested positive to Covid-19 in the biggest one-day jump in cases in two months.

The review found “resources required to support the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) function have failed to keep pace with the increased volume of returnees”.

“The team found that the system, whilst not broken, is under extreme stress and is not readily able to respond to the increasing demands being placed upon it,” the review found.

“This has resulted in a very dedicated team having to confront immediate issues with limited capacity to plan ahead,” the review said, adding that this was “impacting on staff wellbeing and the confidence that returnees have in the process”.

Announcing the results of the review, New Zealand’s housing minister, Megan Wood, said: “While the system was manageable under level-4 (restrictions), when there was only small numbers of New Zealanders returning home, it is now a system under stress, with arrivals increasing by 73% last week, compared to the beginning of April.”

The review was ordered by the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, after reports of people mixing in isolation facilities and others leaving quarantine without having been tested for Covid-19.

This included two women entering from the UK who were allowed to leave their accomodation on compassionate grounds without being tested. They drove from Auckland to Wellington before testing positive to Covid-19 and were the first positive cases in the country following the lifting of all restrictions except those on the border.

The review said that sometimes the first people knew about mandatory quarantine on entering New Zealand was during their health check on arrival at the airport.

“There is currently no written information provided to returnees prior to entry or a process to record their acknowledgement that they will be required to enter into the MIQ system,’’ the review said.

On Sunday the country recorded its worst day for new Covid-19 infections in two months, announcing four positive tests.

Health officials said the new cases had arrived from India and Nepal, with one transferred to hospital for care.

“While today’s news that one of our recent cases is in hospital may be concerning to some, it is something the health system in New Zealand has remained prepared for,” the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said.

“I want to reassure the wider community that this person is receiving good treatment from the team at Auckland City Hospital, who have previous experience of managing positive cases.”

On Monday New Zealand introduced stricter measures to strengthen its border because of the volume of returning citizens, in what Ardern described as “this dangerous new phase”.

This included renewing the health order mandating 14 days of quarantine, and ensuring that people arriving in New Zealand must have a negative Covid-19 test before leaving quarantine, and may be required to take multiple tests.

New Zealand has closed its border to all but citizens and regular residents and now has 20 active cases, each of whom have been quarantined.

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