National is calling for the Government to move Covid-19 quarantine and managed isolation facilities away from central Auckland as a way to safeguard New Zealand largest city from future lockdowns.
Chris Bishop, the party’s spokesman for Covid-19 response, says this could be in the form of a purpose-built facility on the outskirts of Auckland.
There are currently 5583 people in managed isolation facilities and 76 in quarantine, many are housed in facilities within the Auckland CBD.
Hotels in the central city currently being used for MIQ are the Pullman, Stamford Plaza, Rydges, M Socialand the Grand Millennium.
“The recent Pullman hotel cases showed just how much risk Auckland is at of another community outbreak because of the ingrained problems with MIQ,” Bishop says.
“New Zealand can’t afford to keep yo-yoing in and out of lockdown and Auckland’s economy can’t afford to keep bleeding more than $30 million per day.”
Bishop said the Victoria government was currently planning a cabin-style hub outside Melbourne’s CBD to replace its MIQ hotels following a recent outbreak that led to a lockdown.
“This facility will likely be a village of single-storey pre-fabricated structures with separate ventilation systems for each room. Returnees share the facility but not the same roof,” he said.
“Having ample fresh air reduces the risk of airborne transmission among returnees, while the isolated location makes it harder for the virus to find its way into heavily-populated urban areas where it can spread faster.”
National believes a similar facility should be built on vacant land near Auckland Airport, Bishop says and is calling for urgent investigations to begin.
The cost could be covered by contributions from the Government, private sector, and payments by returning New Zealanders.
“A purpose-built facility may prove expensive but its cost will be dwarfed by the economic hit of putting Auckland into more lockdowns,” Bishop said.
“The Government should act now to get ahead of the problem before another Covid-19 outbreak forces yet another lockdown. We have had more than enough wake-up calls.”
Professors of Public Health at the University of Otago Nick Wilson and Michael Baker had called for the closure of MIQ facilities in Auckland “to protect such a key economic centre” and eliminate shared-space use in the facilities.
“It’s clear that New Zealand will need MIQ facilities for some time to come with mass vaccination unlikely until the end of the year,” Bishop says.
“We have done well to keep Covid-19 from taking hold but this has come at great cost. Maintaining this effort will require innovative thinking, particularly as the virus mutates.
Bishop said if done right, the new facility could be converted into housing once it has finished serving its initial purpose.
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