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Government Strengthens Managed Isolation System

A range of improvements are already underway to address issues identified in the rapid review of the Managed Isolation and Quarantine system released today, Housing Minister Megan Woods said.

The review was commissioned just over a week ago to identify and understand current and emerging risks to ensure the end-to-end Managed Isolation and Quarantine process is robust.

“There is no play book for this kind of pandemic. We’re one of only a handful of countries in the world to require managed isolation at the border with compulsory testing, making our existing system one of the strictest globally,” Megan Woods said.

“This report shows how we can strengthen the managed isolation system, reduce the room for error and continue to keep COVID-19 at the border and out of our communities.

“The review found that the system is not broken but does need additional resourcing to respond to the increasing demands placed upon it as growing numbers of New Zealanders come home from global COVID-19 hotspots.

“Actions are being taken swiftly to address all the issues that this review has identified to ensure we have the capacity and procedures to keep the system robust and working efficiently.

“The Ministry of Health will be increasing the number of clinical and non-clinical staff, such as nurses, at each facility to ensure health checks, testing and other health services are consistently delivered to the standards required.

“This will see the introduction of a dedicated model of care to service the wide-ranging public health, physical health and mental health needs of people returning to New Zealand in the facilities. Service standards will be incorporated into a proposed regulatory framework and will be subject to review,” Megan Woods said.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb says significant changes have already been introduced and work is urgently underway to address other issues raised in the report.

Last week Air Commodore Webb announced a doubling of the on-the-ground Defence Force staff of 32, across 18 facilities. As of today, we have 168 NZDF personnel across 21 facilities providing 24/7 coverage. There are also more government and defence staff across the end-to-end system.

“This increased resourcing has had an immediate impact on the ground in terms of making sure our people are well supported to carry out their roles and ensure the safe transfer of returnees into managed isolation.

“The increase in resourcing will form the backbone of further changes that are being made to ensure the system is robust and fit-for-purpose.

“We have also increased oversight of the transfer of returnees from aircraft through to Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities so they are escorted by government staff.”

Other improvements rolling out now include:

  • Increased security for transferring returnees to managed isolation facilities
  • The standardisation of procedures across all facilities
  • The introduction of better information for returnees – from flight boarding through to entry into New Zealand and their exit from Managed Isolation.
  • Better information to communities where those facilities are located.
  • Strengthening of demand forecasting, reporting functions and coordination between agencies.

Health responses include:

· More staff in facilities

· Improved model of care – including taking into account issues like mental health and addiction issues

· More clinical oversight to ensure a consistent quality of service in facilities

· Monitoring to ensure there is consistency across facilities

“All staff supporting this process are performing to a very high standard, and have been doing so over a long period of sustained and increasing pressure. I would like to acknowledge and thank them for their ongoing work and dedication to the job. I am committed to ensuring they have the support and structures that they need to deliver well- functioning Managed Isolation and Quarantine for all New Zealanders,” Air Commodore Webb says.

A copy of the review and action plan can be found here.

Background information

General overview of the process for returnees

1. At departure airport.

a. Check in for flight - information on which town passenger will complete Managed Isolation in is provided

2. On flight to New Zealand – passengers informed by PA of the town they will complete Managed Isolation in (whole flight goes to same town).

3. On landing at the international terminal:

a. Government escort: Passengers are meet by government officials who escort them onto their transport for the move into managed isolation. They are kept separate from all other people at the airport throughout the process. Social distancing within their group is also requested and they are asked to wear masks throughout.

b. Health screening. If high risk, moved separately through airport processes from remainder of flight. All passengers (low or high risk) are provided high level 6 point document on what to expect from managed isolation.

c. Customs / Immigration – as normal with social distancing.

d. Bag collection – as normal with social distancing.

e. Biosecurity – as normal with social distancing.

f. Provided information by government representatives on managed isolation location, journey time and provided with refreshments and restroom stops (dependent on the transfer length).

4. On landing at domestic terminal: All passengers on the flight are transferred into buses airside. Passengers wear PPE and social distance on the bus journey.

5. On arrival at managed isolation facility

a. Moved through check in process, provided with welcome pack outlining everything they need to know while in isolation. Some activities vary depending in the hotel, ie some hotels provide a meal request sheet for the next three days.

b. Move to room and settle in.

c. Returnees are provided with basic toiletries (2-3 days’ supply), towels and bedding.

6. Routine during stay in a managed isolation facility

a. Meals provided to room and left at door (3 meals daily). Food can be ordered in from local places.

b. Fresh air options vary on the nature of the hotel, and are mostly run on a schedule basis.

c. Each Managed isolation facility has an onsite team to provide a 24/7 service including health, security and general support.

d. Health and welfare calls are made regularly and follow on support is facilitated through the health team. This includes questions on whether the returnee may have symptoms.

e. Communal facilities are not in use (ie gyms and pools).

f. The hotel staff manage the provision of meals, public areas cleaning and laundry and work closely with the government onsite team.

g. Teams made up of government officials including security and health professionals support the returnees in each managed isolation facility.

7. Specific activities

a. Around Day 3 and 12 COVID tests. Any positive results lead to a move to quarantine facility.

b. Day 12 departure planning to ensure that (subject to a negative test) the returnee has a plan.

c. If returnee shows symptoms they are referred to health services to have a COVID test and move to quarantine facility where they remain for at least their of their 14 day period.

d. Health check completed prior to departure.

8. On departure

a. Certificate of Managed Isolation attendance given to returnee.

b. Transport provided to original airport if required.

c. Returnee departs.

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