Document dump: Government considered putting anyone with COVID-19 into quarantine

The Government considered putting anyone with COVID-19 into quarantine.
The Government considered putting anyone with COVID-19 into quarantine. Photo credit: Getty

The Government once considered putting anyone with COVID-19 into a managed isolation facility, a document dump of background information related to the alert levels has revealed. 

A Cabinet paper review of alert level 3 says there was a consideration to have confirmed cases of the coronavirus "enter a managed facility within their DHB area until they are formally released by a Medical Officer of Health". 

The paper notes, "This more restrictive approach might be justified at lower alert levels, to prevent the risk of onward transmission to other family members and the wider community to prevent a return to levels 3 or 4."

There was concern about suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 being followed up with and whether those people were self-isolating enough to protect the broader population. 

"Healthline checks in on suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases daily by phone. There is strong evidence that these people, who are meant to self-isolate and maintain physical distancing measures, are actually doing so, but we cannot be 100 percent sure," the paper says. 

"Consideration is being given to options for reducing the risks here."

The document says arrangements would have been made for their dependents if necessary. But the document does not reveal why the Government did not proceed with the idea of anyone with coronavirus going into managed isolation.  

Quarantine is currently only required for arrivals to New Zealand. The Government has more than 4000 people in managed isolation where returnees must spend 14 days before being released into the public. 

The Government has been grappling with a quarantine testing botch-up after it was revealed that from June 9 to 16, the Ministry of Health let 55 people out of managed isolation on a compassionate exemption - and only four of those people were tested. 

The Government introduced new rules on June 9 that people in managed isolation and quarantine facilities need to be tested at days 3 and 12, and that a negative result is required for the day 12 test before being allowed to leave.

But last week it appeared the policy was not being enforced, after two COVID-19-carrying sisters had been allowed to leave an Auckland managed isolation facility on compassionate grounds without being tested first. 

The document dump also reveals that the Ministry of Health was wary about shifting down alert levels so soon, with Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield expressing caution about moving to alert level 2. 

He recommended a "transition to level 2 which would not take place all at once but should delay the riskiest activities to ensure we were able to monitor the effects of the first set of changes". 

Dr Bloomfield said, "The lack of significant community transmission since 2 April supports a move to alert level 2, but the short time in alert level 3 means a cautious and phased approach to moving to alert level 2 is appropriate.

"Level 2 creates a substantial cumulative public health risk from the aggregate effect of relaxation of multiple control measures. We should also be cognisant that the latest case numbers, while encouraging, only relate to a limited amount of time spent at level 3."