Expect more Covid-19 quarantine breaches as more people arrive into NZ, epidemiologist warns

Source: 1News

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker has slammed the breach of quarantine protocols where people arriving into New Zealand from overseas have mixed with others near the end of their quarantine period as "unacceptable".

His comments today came after 1 NEWS' Kristen Hall reported last night on the apparently slack controls at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland, and official isolation facility for people coming into New Zealand from overseas.

Recent international arrivals have been allowed in close proximity with other people, not only within the hotel, but out on the streets.

The incidents weren't the only known cases of breaches either, as Stuff reported Wednesday that a member of the Avatar film crew broke isolation rules in a central Wellington hotel at the end of last month despite the supervision of multiple officials.

Health Minister David Clark declined to appear on TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning to discuss concerns about the breaches.

Instead, University of Otago's Professor Baker told Breakfast protocols at the border were "very well worked out to protect New Zealanders", but added that the challenge was ensuring that those protocols were being "consistently applied".

"Unfortunately much of this is to do with scale, I think when you have maybe around 3000 people in managed facilities some of those people will not necessarily follow rules and some of the staff there may occasionally get a little complacent - I'm just speculating, but that is one of the big challenges.

"The more people we have coming into New Zealand from quarantine the more locations and so on, so I think we always have to assume errors will happen."

However, Breakfast host John Campbell brought up that in last night's 1 NEWS story there was "one thing that defied common sense", which was that there was a smoking room with people in there who were near the end of their 14 quarantine period, as well as people in the same smoking room who had only just arrived from overseas.

"Which seems just illogical really if there is the potential for cross-contamination when somebody's almost done their quarantine," Campbell said.

In response, Mr Baker said, "yeah, I think we can all see that's unacceptable".

"Obviously you can't have mixing of different cohorts of people coming through, in fact you can't even have people mixing in cohorts themselves. Obviously in a family bubble that's fine, but otherwise you can't, and certainly and obviously not mix with people living in New Zealand." 

Professor Baker also said he was surprised international travellers in quarantine in New Zealand weren't wearing face masks if they were outside their room.

"This is a situation where they definitely would help. Certainly the modelling that we've done shows that face masks are very effective for this disease so I always assume that everyone during their whole journey through this process would wear face masks when they had contact with other people.

"If there's any situation where they're out, potentially having contact with other people in quarantine or members of the public or the staff there, wearing face masks would be very valuable."