Vulnerable people with COVID left isolating in cars, garages, garden sheds

There's been a significant surge in people home isolating with COVID, amid concerns the programme is confused, delayed, and becoming dangerous.

Vulnerable people have been isolating in cars, garages and even garden sheds.

Whānau Ora manager for The Fono, Europa Kupu, is on the frontline of helping vulnerable people in isolation and what she's witnessed concerns her.

"We have a few cases of family members in overcrowded homes isolating either in their garage, separate areas of their home and even in their shed," she says.

And yes, that's a garden shed - not a sleepout.

In one case, she says a man spent days isolating in his car while waiting for a MIQ spot. Her team helped the man with food and a phone.

"He was using public toilets and had to fill his car up and stuff," she says. "Very dangerous and very risky to the public."

Beachlands resident Dave Austin's been trying to keep his business going amid the pandemic. Adding to his anxiety, his son's in a tiny flat with two COVID-positive people.

"It's just one level of confusion and frustration across the whole board," he says.

He's frustrated because he and his son have struggled to get clarity, especially regarding how long his son - who's negative - must isolate for.

On one call with public health, he says officials insisted his son was not at home but in MIQ.

"She couldn't believe that he wasn't in an MIQ. She said he's registered here as being in an MIQ," Austin says.

There's been a sharp rise in people isolating at home with the virus. It's gone from 723 cases on Friday, to hovering around the mid-800s on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

But on Tuesday there are 1199 COVID cases at home. And there's 2353 people in total - which includes those who are negative but self-isolating because they live with a positive case.

Last week the message was clear - all COVID cases at home get a pulse oximeter to monitor their oxygen levels.

"I know everybody gets one," Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson claimed.

"The oximeters are provided to everyone," Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay added.

But that's not the case.

"They've received nothing, so one of them has been hospitalised, two of them have been COVID-positive. They haven't received any health pack at all," Austin says. "Dog's breakfast."

His son's local MP says the home isolation plan has fallen well short.

"Very unclear communication but also no one for them to be able to talk to very easily. This is not acceptable," Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown says.

Kupu says people are often halfway through their isolation before her team gets notified support is needed.

The Fono and the Pasifika Medical Association say the situation needs to be addressed urgently. Newshub sought comment from Health Minister Andrew Little - he's yet to respond.