Man at Christchurch COVID-19 managed isolation hotel goes on hunger strike, barricades himself in room

A recent arrival from Australia has barricaded himself in his room and gone on hunger strike at a Christchurch managed isolation facility after days of cold food and being told he'd need to take a nasal COVID-19 test on day 12 of his stay.

Ethan Wheeler, who is halfway through his mandatory 14-day stay at the Commodore Hotel near Christchurch Airport, says he'll no longer open his door to hotel or health staff.

Wheeler's act of defiance came after a nurse allegedly told him on Friday that he'd need to undergo a nasal coronavirus test on day 12 - something he's uncomfortable doing as he's still recovering from a broken nose.

While the nasal swab is the most invasive test, it's also the most effective at detecting COVID-19 because the virus replicates in the back of the nose. 

But Wheeler says he was allowed to take a throat swab test (which came back negative) on day three of his stay, and wants the option to take it on day 12 too.

"It's a bit of a breach of my human rights, I'm pretty sure," he told Newshub.

"She [the nurse] just knocked on my door after taking my temperature and stuff, almost trying to argue with me, saying, 'You will be having this up your nose on day 12'. And I said, 'No I won't be, my nose is still healing'.

"I've seen how they do the [nasal] test and they actually jam the thing pretty much the whole way up your nose. It's not happening."

Wheeler says part of his refusal to open his door to anyone is because his meals have kept showing up at his door cold.

"It's chicken and stuff, so that's obviously not too good," he said.

As he only started barricaded himself in his room on Friday, he doesn't believe the staff at the Commodore Hotel know what he's up to.

"But they will soon know once I'm not ordering food," he said. "I won't be taking any food or anything."

A managed isolation and quarantine spokesperson from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) told Newshub that no one would be released from the facilities without testing negative for COVID-19.

However it said where there are medical constraints to consider, health staff would work with individuals and the Medical Officer of Health to find a solution for them.

"Our on-site health staff will be making sure this person gets the support they need during their stay in managed isolation," he said of Wheeler's situation.

"Everyone coming home has a responsibility to do their part to stop COVID-19 spreading in New Zealand, and we are grateful for the cooperation of the over 40,000 people so far who have been through managed isolation or quarantine."

The MBIE spokesperson said the feedback from other returnees about the quality of food at the Commodore had been "excellent" but confirmed Wheeler's comments would be passed on to hotel management.