Covid-19 quarantine hotels: 'We need military-like precision'

A woman escaped from Auckland's Pullman Hotel on Saturday night.
A woman escaped from Auckland's Pullman Hotel on Saturday night. Photo credit: Google Maps

An epidemiologist wants those returning to this country to be confined to their rooms during Covid-19 quarantine.

Kiwi public health medicine specialist at the University of Melbourne, Tony Blakely, told Morning Report New Zealand needs to learn from the situation in Melbourne, where 3000 residents are locked down in over-crowded tower blocks due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The residents are unable to leave their homes for five days and at least 500 police officers are on patrol to enforce the strict rules.

The outbreak was fanned by the virus leaking out of quarantine hotels.

Blakely says Australia was doing pretty well, with most states having eliminated Covid-19.

"Victoria was always going to have outbreaks because we haven't got rid of the virus we were living in what I call suppression land, where we had to learn to live with it, but then the quarantine, one hotel starts to leak cases and then another hotel started to leak cases from doing quarantine and we've got an outbreak at the moment that is fanned by this leakage out of quarantine..."

Private contracting firms at the hotels weren't trained very well, some biosecurity guards were sleeping with some of those in quarantine and there was cross-contamination, he said.

"There's a systematic failure here."

Blakely says there's a high risk of cross-contamination in hotels.

"If we continue to use modern CBD hotels, we need military-like precision."

New Zealand doesn't want to risk Covid-19 leaking into the community, Blakely said.

He said there needs to be enough security that people can't leave easily, people need to be confined to their rooms and there needs to be very good infection control among staff delivering food and medical care.

"It does sound awful ... but this is a pandemic and you've got a country which has eliminated it, you actually need really good processes and enforce them."

On Saturday night, a woman climbed a fence to escape managed isolation on Saturday night.

She escaped from the Pullman Hotel in Auckland and was found a couple of blocks away on Anzac Avenue, nearly two hours later.

The woman has now been charged and has returned to managed isolation.

Blakely says the Ministry of Health needs to undertake a formal risk-assessment of the suitability of hotels versus using farms.