Covid 19 coronavirus: 17 days in MIQ, five Covid tests for Wellington father turned back from airport

A Wellington father who had spent 16 days at the Pullman MIQ was then held for three hours at Auckland airport, before being returned to a second facility with no indication of when he can get home to see his children.

Father-of-three Antonio Gonzalez has been living in Wellington for 18 years, but recently returned from six months in Mexico, where he had travelled for family reasons.

He was on day 14 of managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel when a community case of coronavirus was discovered in Northland, the first since November. Since then Gonzalez has been struggling to get a clear answer about when he can go home to see his children.

“Psychologically it’s full-on. For someone with anxiety or depression, it would be not-good,” he said.

“The main thing is the uncertainty. When you ask why or how long, no one knows. No one gives you the answer.

“Losing the sense of freedom is a really horrible feeling”.

Having returned three negative Covid-19 tests, Gonzalez was at the end of his stay at the Pullman on Sunday when news of the Northland case broke out.

Nevertheless he was called that night to say he would be leaving at 7am on Monday morning, and to awake at 5.30 for a health check.

After waiting over an hour for the health check, he eventually went down to reception.

“I get out of the elevator and the soldier says to me ‘what are you doing here’ and I said ‘I want to talk to someone, I’m leaving today’.

“‘Go back to your bedroom’ is what he said to me. No explanation.”

Departures from the hotel had been halted due to the uncertainty around the positive case, but Gonzalez said it was 2pm until they had any information.

“We had no explanations, only a paper on our door saying departure delayed because we investigating a case in Northland for a woman that was here.”

“The whole day was uncertainty, no one called, no one talked to us, no one said anything.”

Two days later, after returning a fourth negative test for Covid-19, Gonzalez was told he could leave on Wednesday at 9.15.

He called his airline to get an earlier flight at 3.15 and booked a shuttle from the airport for 1pm, deciding to spend the morning in the city.

“I went for a walk in Auckland I went to the shops and bought a T-shirt for the America’s Cup and tried to forget the whole incident of the 14 days,” he said.

“I come back, they give me my bags at 1pm and I jump in the shuttle. This is when the nightmare started again.”

En route to the airport he received a text asking him not to get in the shuttle, but disregarded it as he was already on his way.

At the airport, he was informed by an airline worker who told him his passport had not gone through.

“She takes me to the manager of Air New Zealand in Auckland and she tells me someone from the Ministry of Health called her and told her that it’s not possible for me to board the plane’.”

Gonzalez was given instructions to go to a gate at the end of the airport, which was empty of people.

“This gate didn’t have an access to go out and it had a guard on the door, like I’m a prisoner or something like that.

“I feel really horrible, because this is not the way you treat people.”

He was there for three hours and never given a clear answer on when he could leave.

“Firstly they said I could rent a car and drive to Wellington,” he said.

“They said yes and then an hour later they said no and then finally they said you need to go to a new hotel with a new isolation time.”

Gonzalez was then taken to the Novotel Hotel at Auckland airport, where he remains on Thursday, now awaiting his fifth Covid test result.

The uncertainty and lack of mental health support would be a challenge for people with existing issues, he said.

“During all this uncertainty no one is checking if you’re OK, no one is ringing and saying ‘Are you OK?’ This to me is not human, it’s just a number of people.

“I was thinking of other people, like if someone had depression, schizophrenia or something, it would be a big damage to them.

“And all the people that talk to you are people from the army, it’s not nurses or police, it’s kind of freaky.

“Sometimes when you ask questions they answer you a little bit aggressive.”

He felt grateful to be back in a first-world country with a strong Covid response, but had not been impressed with the management of the new cases this week.

“All this was not very well managed – obviously they had a new situation which they didn’t really realise what was going on, where the virus was coming from.

“But they should have a little bit more humanity with people.

“I feel like an experiment of a new case … our freedom is not quite our freedom.”

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