Frustration after entire hostel put in isolation for 13 days over a single COVID-19 case

A man is frustrated after being stuck in isolation for 13 days when the entire hostel he was staying in was put into lockdown due to a COVID-19 case. 

Fergus Jackson Cotter was meant to stay at the Choice Backpackers in Auckland for just three days before he flew to Canada. But after a person in the hostel tested positive he was forced to lock down for nearly two weeks despite having no contact with the case. 

"The day before I left, somebody, who is staying on another floor, that I’ve never seen in my life, received a positive COVID test. And so, therefore the entire building was considered close contacts and we were all locked in," he said. 

To add insult to injury, Cotter also had to pay for nine extra days accommodation - something he was only able to do thanks to help from family.

"I've been on ACC recently but the ACC payments stopped while I was here so I have missed out on a week of those payments and I have just paid for my flights to Canada. So all of my money is tied up in savings and I have had to reach out to my family to cover those costs. I don't know what someone without that privilege would do." 

Cotter said he was told financial assistance was only available if he had less than $1100 in his bank account. 

The hostel was first placed in lockdown on January 29 and visitors were only allowed to leave on February 10. 

Cotter says during his stay it was near impossible to get information out of authorities, and he only found out when he would be able to leave hours beforehand. 

A Ministry of Health spokesperson told Newshub while they cannot comment on individual cases, staff work very hard to support people in isolation. 

"Public health and welfare providers do all they can to support people who are isolating. However, there can be limited alternative accommodation options for those who have travelled elsewhere, and as case numbers rise, support will be focused on those with high needs," they said.  

"In recent months, we have been telling the public that if they travel, they need to prepare if they are required to self-isolate while away from home.  

"Increasing case numbers of COVID-19 in the community due to the Omicron variant makes it even more important for people to be prepared for how they will safely self-isolate to protect their whānau and community if they become a close contact or test positive."

The Ministry pointed to the Unite Against COVID-19 website which warns Kiwis they may need to pay more if they're forced to isolate while they are away. 

"If you must extend your stay at your holiday location, or go to alternative accommodation at your holiday location, it may cost you extra. Make sure you have enough money to cover extra time away from home," the website suggests. 

The spokesperson also urged Kiwis to regularly check new locations of interest. 

"Locations of interest are added to the Ministry’s website as quickly as possible. We do ask people in all regions across New Zealand to check these regularly.

 "We also, as always, remind people that only those who have been at a location of interest at the relevant time – or have COVID-19 symptoms – need to get a test and isolate until a negative result is returned. The most common early symptoms of the Omicron variant are a sore or scratchy throat, and a runny nose. If you have any of these symptoms, please get a test."