Kiwis in quarantine hotels can be released early for compassionate leave

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jul 2020, 2:01PM
Minister in charge of isolation hotels Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Minister in charge of isolation hotels Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Kiwis in quarantine hotels can be released early for compassionate leave

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jul 2020, 2:01PM

The Government is once again allowing travellers to apply to leave managed isolation early on compassionate grounds.

Seven people have been granted leave in the past week, Cabinet Minister Megan Woods says.

Early leave would not be granted except in "exceptional" circumstances, Air Commodore Darren Webb said.

"Every single one is quite unique and will be dealt with on its own merits. It's necessarily a high bar, and that sort of ratio matches the need to have public safety paramount," he said.

Webb said there had been 138 inquiries for early leave in the last week, and there had been about 50 actual applications of which seven were granted.

There was now an end-to-end system for those granted early leave, including medical support where necessary for transport, and strict conditions to manage the risk to public safety.

A new web application form would go live in the next fortnight, he said, so people wanting to apply for early leave would have more information before they decided to fly to New Zealand.

Each applicant filled out a health form so their risk to public health is assessed.

Woods said the 14-day isolation period was the most important line of defence.

How stretched are quarantine hotels?

She said the system linking passage to New Zealand to an available room would ensure that supply could meet future demand.

"We have a very clear idea of what our safe isolation facilities are, and we are matching demand."

She said there will be breathing space, for instance where a flight from Auckland to Christchurch could not take off and more people than expected had to be accommodated in Auckland.

Webb said he didn't want the system to be more than 90 per cent full.

The national capacity was about 7000, Webb said, and that was the maximum that the country could deal with.

Woods said that meant about 15,000 people could return to New Zealand each month, accounting for those departing quarantine and managed isolation facilities.

Woods said she would have more to say about potential co-payments "very soon".

No quarantine in Dunedin

Dunedin would not be used for quarantine and managed isolation facilities at this stage Woods also revealed today.

Last week she had ruled out Queenstown and Invercargill.

Webb said the national capacity for quarantine and managed isolation facilities was close to being exhausted.

He said logistical challenges for Dunedin were too great.

Woods said from next month a system was expected to be up and running that will link people's passage home to a room in managed isolation.

As of yesterday, there were 3173 people staying in 32 such facilities across five cities, with room for 3523 more, meaning capacity was less than half full.

But more than 3400 people are expected to arrive in the next fortnight, when about 1300 people are expected to leave managed isolation facilities.

Today, the Ministry of Health said there were no new cases of Covid-19, but the number of tests conducted was still well below the recommended 4000 per day.

Yesterday there were 2191 tests.

It has been 82 days since the last case of community transmission.