Wellington’s Bay Plaza Hotel will no longer be used as a managed isolation facility starting at the end of the year, in part because its ventilation system does not meet the standard required to deal with the more virulent Delta strain.
Deputy Under Secretary for Managed Isolation and Quarantine Andrew Milne said a review of the hotel’s ventilation system had shown that a “significant investment” was needed to bring it up to speed.
“This is not a reflection of its ability to function as a hotel, or its ability to continue to operate safely as a managed isolation facility for the next several months,” he said.
While health experts had rated the risk of ventilation systems as “low”, only mechanically ventilated rooms were being used “to reduce the risk of people coming into contact with infectious aerosols in the facility.”
This had halved the number of beds available at the Bay Plaza to 32, so its decommissioning as a managed isolation facility would only reduce national capacity by less than one percent, he said.
“We have taken steps to mitigate risks through the rooms in use, and the air filtration units are installed in common areas such as elevators and hallways.
“We do not depend on a single layer of protection, and all managed isolation and quarantine facilities operate in a Level 4 environment, with workers following strict infection prevention controls developed by the Ministry of Health to manage the risks of spreading infection. Covid 19 “.
Experience had shown that there were other “operational limitations” for Wellington, including the fact that the airport was not set up to easily serve red-zone flights, Milne said.
Offering managed isolation and quarantine rooms, the Grand Mercure will remain the only facility in the lower North Island.
The Bay Plaza will stop welcoming returnees at the end of December and will begin operating as a normal hotel again from February 2022.
“I want to thank the management and staff at Bay Plaza again for their incredible efforts on the front lines of our fight against Covid-19. We also acknowledge and thank the workers of various government agencies and private employers for the excellent contributions they have made. to run this installation.
“MIQ will support management and staff over the next several months and will work closely with Bay Plaza to ensure a smooth transition as they look forward to welcoming guests again starting in February next year. Government agency workers at Bay Plaza they will be reassigned to other duties by their employers upon termination. “
Milne said that due to the extremely high demand for MIQ space, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was investigating other possibilities.
“We are still in the early stages of investigating possible options, including in Rotorua and Christchurch, but no decisions have been made.”
There were many complex issues that needed to be considered, including the supply of manpower to support operations, the suitability of hotels, proximity to adequate hospital facilities and transportation hubs, and the potential impact on iwi, housing and economic activity.
“We are well aware of the impact that additional facilities could have on the health workforce, and that is why we are collaborating with district health boards and the Ministry of Health and investigating options to alleviate pressure on the health workforce. , including investigation of alternative health care arrangements. “
Cabinet ministers will make a final decision on the possible establishment of new facilities, he said.