COVID-19: Conference-goers were not told Novotel being used as coronavirus quarantine facility, CEO claims

Organisers of a schools tech conference are frustrated they were not told attendees were being booked into a hotel doubling as a mandatory quarantine facility.

A conference for Kamar, a school administration database founded by Kent Lendrum, is due to take place at the Ellerslie Convention Centre in September. 

But Lendrum says he's concerned because he wasn't notified the Novotel Ellerslie - the hotel conference guests are booked into - was being used as a quarantine facility.

A blunder this week saw New Zealand's latest two cases of COVID-19 leave the Novotel Ellerslie without being tested after they were granted compassionate leave to drive to Wellington for a funeral.

"It's important to me that my staff are safe and healthy, as well as obviously the 500 or 600 teachers we're expecting to attend our conference," said Lendrum, who is also the chief executive of Kamar.

Lendrum told Newshub hundreds of people have already booked flights, adding they may have to book alternative accommodation unless the venue could assure them appropriate measures will be taken. 

The Novotel Ellerslie.
The Novotel Ellerslie. Photo credit: Google

"We've been in talks with the Ellerslie Convention Centre which is where the actual conference is being held. They've assured us they're taking all necessary steps to protect people in attendance at the conference.

"Hopefully we're going to go ahead but things are changing daily."

It follows claims from other hotel guests the isolation facility's service and hygiene standards were not up to scratch, while another woman quarantining at the hotel claimed she only found out she was staying at the same hotel as two confirmed cases of COVID-19 by watching the Ministry of Health's press conference on Tuesday.

Requests for comment on those matters on Wednesday were referred to Auckland Council, and queries were then referred to the Ministry of Health. Newshub has approached Accor, the group that owns Novotel, for comment on the latest claims.

A letter to guests from ministry regional health lead Jo Elvidge, seen by Newshub, asked those staying at the hotel to stay in their rooms until everyone had been tested.

"We know that this is an unsettling time for you and appreciate your understanding and cooperation," the letter says.

"Please rest assured your health and wellbeing is our primary concern.

"Testing of all guests will be undertaken over the course of the next 24 hours and our staff will be in touch to let you know the process for this." 

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the two women should never have been allowed to leave the facility.

"This represents an unacceptable failure of the system," she told reporters at Parliament.

The Ministry of Health confirmed on Wednesday night the two women had physical contact with friends after getting lost in Auckland on the way to Wellington.

Compassionate exemptions have now been suspended by the Government. Health Minister  Dr David Clark told The AM Show on Wednesday the system had failed.

"I want to be assured that the system at the border - the quarantine system - is working properly because New Zealanders have made huge sacrifices here."