Covid 19 coronavirus: Woman frustrated after MIQ stay extended after bus exposure event

A woman desperate to see her children after being away from them for a year is frustrated that her stay in MIQ has been extended by nearly two weeks.

An MIQ returnee was told of a positive test result on Sunday while exercising in Mt Albert away from their hotel – the Grand Mercure in Auckland. They were then taken back in the same bus as 23 other MIQ travellers who had also been exercising.

The woman, who the Herald has agreed not to name, is one of 14 people in that group deemed a close contact of the infected MIQ guest who are now required to remain in MIQ for an additional 14 days from Sunday’s exposure date.

This was despite Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins saying yesterday the returnees were appropriately physically distanced on the bus.

The other nine guests were required to stay an additional five days from the exposure event.

“[I’m] gutted, really pissed off,” the woman – who is upset at the delays in seeing her children – told the Herald.

“I feel pretty hopeless with everything that is going on.”

She arrived in Auckland on March 10 and was scheduled to leave MIQ today before her stay was extended.

“No one seems to want to listen and no one seems to want to answer the questions that I’ve asked about why was there a person on the bus in the first place that hadn’t had their Covid results back?”

The Grand Mercure is one of four MIQ facilities in Auckland where returnees are bused to a secure exercise area as there is no suitable exercise area at the hotel.

“This morning I got a phone call [from health officials who] said unfortunately I have to stay for 14 days and I started kicking off. I tried to explain my situation. They said they could get me help.”

A MIQ spokesperson said an investigation into the incident was underway and the report would be made public.

Exercise groups followed strict infection and protection controls, including wearing face masks, adhering to social distancing and hand hygiene.

“We want to thank those who we are asking to extend their stay – we acknowledge the disruption this will cause them and appreciate their patience.”

MIQ guests had access to free, 24-hour support for anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing.

“The team at the Grand Mercure are doing all they can to make their extended stay as comfortable as possible.”

The guests’ stay was extended as a precaution to provide assurance there was no risk to the public.

Impacted guest would not face additional charges for their extended stay.

National Party Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop said the extra days in MIQ may have been unnecessary if the infected guest had simply been transported back to the Grand Mercure separately.

“It beggars belief that, many months into having MIQ facilities, we’re still making basic errors like this. If you know someone’s got Covid, don’t put them on a bus with people who don’t have Covid.

“People who followed the rules and have done nothing wrong now have to spend more time in MIQ. The Government talks about continuous improvement a lot, but I would have thought we would have got this one right some time ago.”

Hipkins said standard operating procedures were being reviewed.

Asked how he would have felt if he was put on a bus with someone who knowingly had Covid-19, even with masks and social distancing, Hipkins said: “I would be disappointed as I’m sure the people who are in that position are disappointed. I am disappointed for them. This is something we’ll look very closely at to ensure we minimise the potential for it to happen to someone else again.”

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