Covid-19: Home isolation after MIQ would be a struggle, say returnees

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A week of home quarantine after leaving MIQ would be impossible for many new arrivals to organise, with some having nowhere suitable to isolate, returnees say.

Businessman and businesswoman traveler with luggage at city background, Business People Commuter Walking City Life Concept.

Photo: 123RF

Experts including epidemiologist Michael Baker say a compulsory period of self-isolation for travellers after their two weeks in a managed isolation hotel is worth considering, as way to avoid Covid-19 cases in the community.

Marriette Dodd, a teacher who returned from the United Arab Emirates in June, moved in with her daughter and three flatmates after competing managed isolation in Roturua.

“There just was not a situation where I could isolate.

“I’m quite convinced a large proportion of people will stick to the rules but it’s not always practicable.

“How many people have a place where they can go and be alone where they get off that plane?”

“I think some people will do their best but in the same way that you see people currently on public transport not wearing masks for whatever reason you will find that people will look for loopholes.”

Joy Mills and her partner left managed isolation in Wellington this month, after moving to the city from Melbourne.

“The very first thing we did was go and open our New Zealand bank account – so to be able to buy groceries and have them delivered would have been really hard for us for that first week.

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“If people have their own houses and their own friend networks and were set up to be able to isolate it would have been fine.

Mills said authorities would have to support people at “very different levels of readiness” if a home quarantine system was brought in.

“For us, because we had been in Melbourne where we had incredibly strict lockdown, it was natural to continue do social distancing. But people coming from places who barely followed any isolation rules at all would have had a much harder time imposing that on themselves.”

Dodd said the managed isolation system works well because everyone is treated the same way.

“People are fond of saying ‘we’re all in the same boat’ but we’re in fact not all in the same boat, we’re in the same storm, some of us are paddling a little one-seater kayak and some of us are in a big launch.”

Bringing in fines for a failure to home quarantine, as has been used in Taiwan, would not be in the right spirit, Mills said.

“When we went into the managed isolation we felt very welcome, we felt very well taken care of.

“They took a huge amount of care to make sure our mental wellbeing was looked after – we had plant pots with seeds to grow over those two weeks, they really thought about how hard it is to be isolated and made sure we were okay.

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“To suddenly switch from that to saying ‘now if you leave your house you have to pay an enormous fine’, I think that throws a lot of that mental wellbeing care that really made me very happy to be coming to New Zealand out the window.”

Advice from the Ministry of Health in regards to recent cases in community:

  • The recent cases of Covid-19 in Auckland and Northland have been linked to Managed Isolation and Quarantine. There is no evidence so far that suggests community transmission.
  • The locations visited by the recent cases can be found on the Ministry of Health website
  • To help stamp out Covid-19, it’s important the right people isolate and get tested.
  • If you were at the locations of interest at the times stated, you need to; isolate away from others, call Healthline 0800 358 5453 for advice on when and where to get tested, and remain isolated until you have a negative test result.
  • If you were not at a location of interest at the stated times and you have no symptoms you do not need to be tested.
  • If you were not at any of the locations of interest at the stated times, but you have symptoms, call Healthline for advice on 0800 358 5453
  • If you are going to get tested, remember you may have to queue. Please take food and water and continue to be kind to each other and our public health team.
  • Everyone should continue to scan QR codes using the COVID Tracer app and turn Bluetooth on to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
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