Saturday, November 27

Government ministers wanted custom MIQ for athletes, but were warned about public reaction


While returnees have been competing with international athletes for coveted spots at MIQ, documents obtained by RNZ show that government ministers lobbied for an exclusive and personalized sports isolation hotel.

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Documents from August 2020 discussing upcoming tournaments show that sports codes were aware of the space in MIQ they would use.
Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The idea was rejected by officials who looked for options in Queenstown, then Rotorua and Wellington in February, each time finding a shortage of resources and a risk of public backlash.

International athletes can enter the country using border waivers for critical workers, but August 2020 documents discussing upcoming tournaments show codes that were well aware of the MIQ space they would use.

New Zealand Cricket mentioned a possible “usurpation” of public resources, while officials spoke about the “perception that sports teams were displacing New Zealanders.”

Ahead of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Sports Minister Grant Robertson asked the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for cost estimates for a dedicated sports MIQ. in Queenstown.

When officials reported in February, they explained that it would be difficult.

“MBIE conducted an exploratory visit to Queenstown in August last year to examine the potential of establishing a sports-based MIF. The visit identified two hotels that potentially meet MIF requirements,” explained the manager of distribution and supply policies. from MIQ, James Johnson.

“There are limited health resources in the Queenstown area and manpower limitations … there are also practical considerations that make Queenstown an unsuitable place.”

Officials noted that there was no tertiary health center in Queenstown and that it would be necessary to bring in health personnel from Dunedin and Invercargill, at a considerable expense.

There was also a “severe” shortage of security workers in the district and there were not enough training facilities available.

Officials estimated that it would cost at least $ 776,000 to install the hotel and $ 4.2 million a month to run it, excluding the cost of health personnel and police.

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult said he was disappointed that the idea was eventually scrapped. He had spoken to officials and felt it could have been a boost to the local economy and morale.

“It would have brought people who stay in the district. Obviously some activity for restaurants and lodging properties. Also the possibility of having games in the district would have brought visitors,” Boult said.

Later in February, ministers asked MBIE to do a similar cost analysis for MIQ sports hotels in Rotorua and Wellington, where it noted there was better access to healthcare workers and sports fields.

MBIE found it could be done for between $ 3.1 million and $ 3.6 million per month, but highlighted another set of challenges.

In a briefing to ministers, he warned that “receiving sports teams often have complex needs for their stay” with the example of ice baths, in-room exercise equipment and additional health and safety measures.

“However, the introduction of an additional facility dedicated exclusively to dealing with incoming sports teams would likely create an adverse response from the public due to the perception of preferential treatment.”

Officials said those complex needs would also place a greater burden on all staff working at the hotel, compared to a regular MIQ, and cautioned that other sectors, such as construction and education, could also start requesting dedicated facilities. MY Q.

In a statement provided to RNZ, an MIQ spokesperson explained that the idea of ​​a sports isolation hotel ultimately “did not progress.”

Instead, 448 rugby, cricket and netball players from 13 teams have stayed at a regular MIQ, the Chateau on the Park in Christchurch, and the Director General of Health granted them a training waiver to visit a nearby sports field.

“These training facilities operate under level four restrictions, just like a MIF, but they are used only for training purposes for a specified period of time each day and are used exclusively by the corresponding sports team for the entire exemption period. This Exemption period is always at the end of your stay at MIQ and after the team has met the required criteria, including two negative tests. “

Some cricketers have used Burt Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln and netball players have trained at Celebration Stadium, while the Pakistan men’s cricket team had their training exemption suspended after ten positive Covid-19 results.

Seven other athletes from other teams, one in October, two in February and five in January, also tested positive during their stay.

The ministry said sports teams or players who had not been granted a training exemption were placed in the same MIQ hotel as the rest of their arrival cohort.

“For example, athletes and players returning from the Tokyo Olympics stayed at various facilities depending on the day and city of arrival.”


www.rnz.co.nz

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