Thursday, December 9

Covid-19 numbers are reassuring, but city hotels for MIQ are not appropriate: Professor Nick Wilson

A public health expert says downtown hotels are too risky to use in quarantine and is asking the government to build specific facilities.

The entire country will remain at alert level 4 until 11:59 pm on Friday. Auckland’s lockdown will continue until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, August 31.

Professor Nick Wilson, a public health expert at the University of Otago, said Control the government’s decision to extend the level 4 blockade was the correct one.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty, so keeping it at alert level 4 until at least Friday night for the whole country seems like a very prudent and appropriate measure.”

But he believed that downtown hotels were not ideal locations for quarantine facilities and said the risk of transmission to people abroad was too high.

“That location [Crowne Plaza] it is very troublesome, but also just the large amount of shared space and the lack of proper ventilation. We have seen zero MIQ failures at Howard Springs, the facility outside of Darwin and it is simply because all the buildings are single story, they are separate, and there is extremely good ventilation.

“There are no surprises that we continue to have problems and the time has really come for another serious perspective on not using hotels for quarantine.”

He said New Zealand should follow the lead of Victoria and Queensland and build dedicated facilities that are not in central city locations.

“Unfortunately, there is very broad agreement between epidemiologists and infection control experts that you need very high quality facilities with good ventilation. It has been a matter of convenience that the government has been using these hotels and there is some kind of rigidity in the thought that.

“We really need, especially with Delta, to be very flexible with our response; to have state-of-the-art facilities that would also help with future pandemics.”

Another problem, he said, was that the government and health authorities should have accelerated the vaccination of essential workers.

The Crown Plaza hotel in Auckland.

The Crowne Plaza hotel in Auckland CBD is a managed isolation facility.
Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

“They should have been moved to the top of the queue. We saw with the Delta outbreak in New South Wales that essential workers who weren’t vaccinated were spreading the virus.

“Although the government has announced an acceleration for essential workers, this should have happened a long time ago and now it should be really accelerated, especially in Auckland and Wellington because that could help to reduce the duration of a lockdown and help us to advance alert level 3 and lower alert levels much faster. “

He said the evidence so far suggested that there were no major over-propagation events in the days leading up to going to alert level 4.

“It is quite reassuring and it is very possible that New Zealand will repeat the success of controlling a Delta outbreak as we have seen in Queensland and South Australia.”

Wilson said that unless a super spread event emerges, he expects there to be a decline in cases in the next few days.

“The quick response and the short period between the MIQ failure that saw the first case has made controlling this Delta outbreak relatively easier than in places like New South Wales and Melbourne.”

He said the reason there may not have been any cases at Coromandel is because the infectivity of the virus varies greatly from person to person.

“Some people are very contagious, they can even infect 100 people at a particular event, and we saw that at things like Bluff’s wedding. [cluster] – but there are many occasions when individuals do not infect other people. There is very extreme variability. “

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