There are concerns from some about the safety measures at Auckland’s Crown Plaza MIQ facility, which Jacinda Ardern named as the likely source of the Delta community outbreak.
The Prime Minister said on Thursday that genome sequencing confirmed the current community cases are a close match to a recent returnee from Sydney, who arrived on a managed Red Zone flight on August 7.
That person had a day-one test on August 8 and returned a positive result on August 9.
Ardern says the primary lines of investigation point to the Crowne Plaza MIQ facility where the returnee was originally based.
Other avenues being looked at are staff at the Jet Park facility, where the returnee was later moved to and other MIQ and border staff involved in that person’s arrival into New Zealand.
However, the Crowne Plaza is the main focus of the investigation due to timings around the community outbreak.
The facility is connected to a small shopping mall on Elliot Street where it shares an open space the public can use as a walk-through route adjacent to the lobby.
The only thing separating Crowne Plaza from this space is a makeshift perspex wall, which reaches a height of around 7 feet with open air above it.
A recent returnee who completed an MIQ stay in the facility said she was surprised to see the small perspex wall inside separating returnees from the public area.
"It's not very high, I waved to my parents through it," she told 1 NEWS.
The woman explained there was a guard on when she was there and you couldn't go right up to the wall, but she could, "easily see people doing it if the guard wasn't there or they were being lax".
A bubble of three people in the Crowne Plaza tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday on day 12 of their stay in MIQ.
"These returnees were in a room adjacent to the positive case from NSW under investigation as the index case in the current Auckland community cluster for period that he was at the Crowne Plaza," the Ministry of Health said.
As a precautionary measure, a hold on some departures at the MIQ facility was put in place.
Returnees on the same floor who were scheduled to leave, are required to stay while Auckland public health officials investigate this matter, including reviewing CCTV footage and running whole genome sequencing on samples from the three new cases.
University of Otago epidemiologist Amanda Kvalsvig also voiced concerns over the Crowne Plaza setup in a Newsroom article last month.
The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.