COVID-19: Emergency accommodation wanted as families forced to isolate in cars, garages

The home isolation system is under so much pressure that people are having to isolate themselves in cars and garages. 

Overcrowded homes are making isolation unworkable and support groups say emergency accommodation is urgently needed.

The team at The Fono has been delivering food to vulnerable families isolating at home seven days a week.

"It's quite huge with the numbers and our team is just mobilising now in regards to receiving more referrals for food support," says Eropa Kupu, Whanau Ora welfare support manager.

Supplies are delivered to families daily but the past two days have seen a surge in demand due to a cluster linked to four branches of the same church in south Auckland.

"At this stage we're getting a few lists of clusters of churches," Kupu says.

They're also helping a cluster from a church in Grey Lynn.

"So definitely hitting the Auckland region pretty hard in regards to the clusters."

But there's a more pressing issue: housing. Overcrowding is causing the virus to spread quicker.

"What we are asking for is the availability of MIQ spaces, of alternative accommodation, so that we can manage specific isolation for our vulnerable families," says Tevita Funaki, The Fono CEO.

Funaki says MIQ rooms are now only being used for the homeless or those at very high risk.

He wants motel rooms or rentals made available.

"We need to get solutions and alternatives now," he says.

It's urgent because he says they're already seeing a repeat of what happened during Delta - people isolating in cars and garages. 

The numbers in home isolation in Auckland are climbing - around 2500 were isolating at home on Monday. It's gradually gone up this week, cracking the 3000 mark yesterday. And on Thursday, 3131 were isolating at home.

"The numbers that we have at the moment are manageable for the teams that we have on the ground," says Dr Anthony Jordan, Northern Region Health Coordination Centre associate chief clinical officer.

But he also doesn't rule out needing motels.

"I think we have to look into all options that are available to us, remembering that we've still got MIQ facilities that we are currently using at the moment," he says.

Newshub is aware another health and welfare group Southseas is also dealing with overcrowding. The advice from those overseeing the programme is that more resources can be mobilised. 

"We're expanding to include more primary care within that care in the community but we are also focusing it on those people who are more likely to get severely unwell with COVID," says Dr Christine McIntosh, COVID Whanau HQ COVID community care clinical director.

But the concern from the frontline welfare remains the same - overcrowded homes are fueling the spread and increasing hardship for the vulnerable.