Saturday, November 27

MIQ infractions include two staff members not wearing masks properly

Two staff members are among those who have violated Covid-19 infection prevention rules at quarantine facilities since the current outbreak began in the community.

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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Staff members were found not to be wearing masks properly, while caring for hundreds of people who had confirmed cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

The joint chief of managed isolation and quarantine, Brigadier Rose King, said eight “bubble breaks” have been reported in specialized quarantine facilities since the outbreak began.

That doesn’t include the incident where a positive Covid-19 community case escaped from the Novotel and Ibis in Ellerslie on Wednesday night.

“The Auckland bubble bursts include incidents such as a staff member wearing his mask incorrectly and, separately, another staff member wearing the wrong mask,” Brigadier King said.

“They were both reminded of the EPP protocols.”

No further repercussions for staff members were mentioned.

King said there were other infractions in Auckland.

“One person was dropped off and entered a facility without an escort, in this case the correct personal protective equipment was used and no other people were found, including staff.

“Other incidents have been people leaving their room to go to another room to pick up or deliver items, and a person leaving their room to smoke without an escort.

“All the people involved were reminded of the protocol for opening doors and navigating the corridors without an escort.”

In Wellington, there were two breaches where people were found in parts of the hotel they weren’t supposed to be in, and then the protocols were reminded.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said staff violations were of particular concern.

“We have to assume that everyone in these facilities is potentially infectious, so any violation is concerning because it could provide a pathway for this virus to pass from one of those infected returnees into the community,” Baker said.

“And of course it’s even more important right now because instead of having maybe 20-30 people in our MIQ system, we have hundreds of infected people in the system in Auckland right now because so many people have been infected in the community.

Professor Michael Baker

Michael Baker.
Photo: Supplied

“This is really going to be overloading our system at the moment, so it is even more important than usual that staff follow good practices and ensure that people staying at these facilities follow these precautions.”

Quarantine facility staff are fully vaccinated and must wear full PPE at all times when inside quarantine hotels.

Most staff are able to return home after a shift and use community facilities such as supermarkets or gas stations.

It occurs when RNZ staff have spoken to say they are coming into contact with more infected people than they would like, and violation rates appear higher than in the rest of the pandemic.

They say that people generally enter MIQ under a level of choice, having flown to New Zealand, and are partially prepared for their two weeks of isolation.

But the people in quarantine now haven’t had time to prepare and are struggling to comply with the rules.

Auckland staff have told RNZ that rule breaking has increased, either intentionally or accidentally.

Rose King said the numbers are still low.

“Bubble breaks happen from time to time within MIQ,” King said.

“In the context of nearly 170,000 people who have been through MIQ so far, the numbers are relatively low.”

“MIQ is a fit for everyone, most people need a few days to get used to it and the staff takes an educational approach.”

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