Coronavirus: Auckland Novotel under fire for failing to inform guests of reported new COVID-19 case, hotel lockdown

New arrivals completing managed isolation at an Auckland Novotel are outraged after discovering that the facility has been placed under lockdown via a Newshub article, rather than being informed by health officials.

A couple who recently returned to New Zealand from the UK were baffled after waking up on Monday to an article claiming that their managed isolation facility - the Auckland Airport Novotel - had been placed under lockdown following the confirmation of a new case of COVID-19.

"Apparently all guests were contacted last night and we are now in lockdown... that's news to us. We haven't heard anything from the hotel, the NZ Defence Force or the Ministry of Health. What a wonderful confusing mess we are all in," the man, who wishes to be identified as Tom, said to Newshub on Monday.

Another new arrival being housed at the Novotel got in contact with Newshub on Monday, attaching a copy of the letter provided to guests with the information on the latest case. The correspondence, dated 8am, June 22, said "by now" each room should have been advised of the fellow guest's positive test result.

"As a result of this positive test, the hotel is currently under lockdown pending contact tracing and further testing," says the letter.

"The duration of this lockdown is yet to be determined and advice is expected from the Ministry of Health this morning.

"All people who were in the facility at the time of the notification, including hotel staff, have been isolated within the hotel until further notice."

The letter Auckland Airport Novotel guests were given on Monday morning.
The letter Auckland Airport Novotel guests were given on Monday morning. Photo credit: Supplied

The guest, who wished to remain anonymous, accused the Ministry of Health of "not keeping their promises to [returned] New Zealanders".

The guest explained that they have been at the Novotel for two weeks as per the mandatory isolation requirements and have returned a negative test result. However, they are not permitted to leave the facility due to the sudden lockdown.

"[The] hotel just had a positive coronavirus case... now they won't let any of us leave," they told Newshub.

"It's not fair or humane. They're potentially exposing us to more germs by making us stay here."

Isolation process has been 'confusing' and 'frustrating' 

The isolation process has been marred with confusion and inconsistency, Tom continued, claiming that communications have been erratic and often contradictory.

"We get maybe a written source of information or a verbal source of information, and they often sort of contradict each other. This morning for example, we woke up and [found out] that our hotel's in lockdown on the news, but we had no idea," he explained.

"We'd not been told this at all and as far as we were concerned, we'd booked to go on a 45 minute walk this morning and that was our plan. We've since been told that [the hotel is in lockdown], but this is hours after finding it out through a news article."

Despite the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health claiming that all returned New Zealanders are being tested twice throughout their 14-day mandatory isolation period, Tom says neither he nor his wife have been tested for the virus - and they're on day six.

"The Prime Minister's on saying 'we do the two-testing policy at these isolation facilities', but as far as I'm concerned, that's not happening.

"They say that you'll be tested twice - you'll be tested on your third day and your twelfth day - so effectively after you arrive and before you leave. We're on day six I think, we're nearly half way, and no tests so far."

Tom says he and his wife inquired about the testing process on day four of their stay, to which they were told that they would be called when it was their turn to be tested.

"We were told that at some point we'd be called - it sounds like we're only going to get one test at some arbitrary point in our stay here," he said.

"We're getting a bit frustrated with just not knowing what the hell is going on or what the plan is."

The couple have returned to New Zealand for a more permanent move rather than a temporary stay, with Tom due to start a new job. With "a life to get back to", the couple are worried that isolation may drag on for longer than the expected 14 days due to the hotel's lockdown. 

"It's going to affect a lot of people," Tom said.

New COVID-19 case at Auckland Airport Novotel

Early on Monday morning, Newshub received reports from Auckland Airport Novotel guests explaining that a new case had been confirmed at the managed isolation facility. 

The new infection, which has yet to be officially confirmed by the Ministry of Health, follows the announcement of two additional cases on Sunday.

A former RNZ reporter who arrived in the country on June 13 told the outlet that their hotel room phone was called at around 8:30pm on Sunday by a member of the Defence Force, instructing her to remain in her room until receiving further instructions.

The Defence Force allegedly claimed that the case is confined to one bubble.

The Prime Minister's office, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Health are declining to comment ahead of Monday's media briefing.