Coronavirus: What a microbiologist's ideal COVID-19 MIQ facility would look like

A Kiwi microbiologist says if he was to design an ideal MIQ facility, it would look similar to a hotel but with several key improvements.

There have been concerns about the effectiveness of New Zealand's MIQ facilities after three people tested positive after leaving Auckland's Pullman Hotel in January.

Microbiologist Ben Harris told The AM Show on Monday that for MIQ facilities you've got to "work with what you've got and they're leaky".

When asked what the main problem is, he replied: "people".

"In a hospital people are bedridden, but in a hotel, they are not. There's a whole lot of staff looking after them who have not been trained in this specific area. There's hygiene issues to work through. All of those need working on."

He said an ideal MIQ facility would be able to mitigate those risks.

"It could be similar to a hotel," he said.

"You would look at the air conditioning very, very carefully and keep it going all of the time. Ideally [it would have] filtered air as it's a respiratory virus... Hygiene is a tricky one because that's manual, so I would use new technology to completely sterilise the room and corridor and lifts and the lids of rubbish bins."

Harris told The AM Show that tougher measures need to be taken to stop COVID-19 escaping MIQ, especially as more transmissible variants of the virus emerge.

"It will keep evolving and we have to be careful we are ahead of the curve rather than behind it. Because it's become 50 percent more infectious, in the more recent variants, we have to double down on every part of the procedure."

Vaccines are now rolling out around the world, although New Zealand isn't expected to get our first doses for several months.

National and ACT have called for the vaccine rollout to be fast-tracked to protect the country's front line workers, but there has been debate about how first-world countries could be taking the vaccines away from poorer nations. 

Harris said it's about what's ethically the right thing to do.

"We are very, very vulnerable because we don't have the virus," he said.

"But other people need it more but somewhere along the line in our capitalist society you need to look after your own country."

Harris told The AM Show the borders likely won't open until the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, which could be at the end of 2021 or even in 2022.