Coronavirus: Air NZ crews allowed to leave quarantine for exercise in Auckland CBD

Air New Zealand crew were allowed to leave a quarantine hotel to exercise on the streets of Auckland's CBD for nearly three weeks, Newshub can reveal.

Up until three weeks ago, the airline's crew could isolate at home for 48 hours after an overseas trip, but on January 18 it became mandatory for crews who had been to the United States to isolate in hotels - because it's deemed a high-risk country.

Despite the 'high-risk', Ministry of Health guidelines were still allowing them to leave their hotel to exercise for up to 90 minutes a day.

The Ministry of Health says it was only aware of and gave guidance for Air New Zealand staff to leave a hotel in Manukau to exercise, and its guidelines did not allow for staff to leave a CBD hotel to exercise.

Air crew were originally staying at the Ramada Hotel at Auckland CBD and Manukau, but switched to the Grand Windsor on Auckland's Queen Street on Friday.

After the switch, they were told by Air New Zealand via a staff bulletin: "As per the MoH guidelines you will be able to leave the hotel for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day."

This means the crew returning from the US over the weekend could have checked into the Grand Windsor and then left and gone for a run through the middle of downtown Auckland.

"That seems insufficient precautions for people who return to New Zealand very recently and awaiting results of their COVID-19 test," epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says.

They were told to wear PPE while exercising and not come within two metres of anyone - but  that is an almost impossible feat in the central city.

The Ministry of Health says it updated its guidance to Air New Zealand on Friday before the switch to the Grand Windsor to no longer allow staff to exercise.

"To reflect this change in provider, location and logistics management, the Ministry of Health issued updated guidance on 5 February to Air New Zealand, MBIE and the hotel provider," a spokesperson said.

AirNZ didn't communicate that change to crew in writing until two days later, but Air NZ says it communicated the advice orally and nobody left the Grand Windsor.

AirNZ does not believe there was a problem in crew having been allowed to leave the Ramada for three weeks between January 18 and February 5.

"They'd be one of the most rigorous tested groups," Air NZ chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui says.

"They were [wearing] PPE on the aircraft and so the risk I think is low and again we do believe following the guidance from the Ministry of Health is what we're here to do."

But that advice now, is to stay inside.

Spare rooms at the Grand Windsor are being transformed into gyms - crew members now exercising behind closed doors.