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Chief Ombudsman To Begin Inspections Of COVID-19 Isolation Facilities

The Chief Ombudsman is to begin inspections of COVID-19 isolation and quarantine facilities set up for people arriving from overseas.

Peter Boshier announced his new inspection programme while appearing before Parliament’s Governance and Administration Committee this morning.

Mr Boshier understands there are currently about 3500 people (as of June 16) in managed isolation or quarantine.

"Thousands more have completed their mandatory 14 days in isolation since border control measures were introduced on 9 April 2020.

"The Ministry of Health is providing accommodation in multiple facilities including hotels.

"This government-funded programme, aimed at helping stop COVID-19 is of an unprecedented scale. It has now been in place for more than two months and will likely continue for many more while our borders are closed."

"As these are places of detention which fall within my designation, I am setting up a new inspection programme to independently monitor and report on them. The public needs to be assured that people who are being isolated for health reasons are being treated fairly and their basic human rights are being respected."

"People may be staying in hotels but they are not actual guests. People in quarantine can’t leave their rooms and those in managed isolation are not allowed to leave the premises without permission of health officials. Even then, their outside activities are closely supervised."

"I am conducting these inspections under OPCAT (the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture), where I inspect places of detention to help ensure people are treated humanely."

Mr Boshier says the inspection team will be small and the inspections focused on specific COVID-19 criteria.

"Among other things, inspectors will be looking at the policies in place to manage suspected cases of COVID-19."

"We’ll also look at people’s access to fresh air and exercise. We’ll also consider whether people in managed isolation are able to keep a physical distance from members of the public including other hotel patrons and staff."

Mr Boshier says the investigations are likely to follow similar lines to those recently conducted in prisons, mental health facilities and aged care facilities.

"The inspections are due to start next month. They will be notified in advance and my staff will be wearing protective equipment as appropriate and will pay close regard to the Ministry of Health’s health and safety guidelines."

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