Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Family of eight crammed into two MIQ rooms get more space

A family of eight who spent their first days in MIQ squeezed into two rooms have expanded their bubble to a third room.

Vincent Rall, his wife Susanne, and their six kids aged from 2 to 15 arrived in New Zealand on December 30, and were crammed into two adjoining rooms at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland.

As of Sunday they had gone almost 200 hours without fresh air or sunlight, Rall told the Herald.

He also had concerns there didn’t appear to be a priority system for disabled or elderly people or those with small children.

He told the Herald he had approached the media because he was concerned about the impact of the “gruelling” MIQ experience on people’s mental health.

Rall, who is a New Zealander, said the family had spent five months trying to get an MIQ spot while living in Norway. He has a structural engineer job starting in Tauranga next month.

He told the Herald this afternoon that all going well the family would be at MIQ until January 9. “I’m pretty okay – I’m more thinking about the kids,” he said.

“If we didn’t have small kids I suppose this would be fantastic.”

Chris Scahill, general manager of operations for MIQ, said the family had booked MIQ vouchers for two rooms before arriving at the facility – which Rall confirmed but said, in his recollection, the booking system had automatically allocated them two rooms based on their family size.

They arrived on December 30 and the next day they had Covid tests, Scahill said.

“A request was made for more space for the family and a third room was allocated. Facility staff advised the family they had to meet health protocols- negative Covid-19 test results for all members of the bubble – before moving into the third room,” he said.

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“The results took longer than usual to be confirmed, as one member of the family bubble had to be re-swabbed.” While they waited, a health exemption was approved for an isolation walk, which happened on Sunday afternoon.

Later that afternoon facility staff received confirmation that health protocols were met, and the family bubble was able to expand to a third room, which they had occupied by around 6pm, Scahill said.

Rall had also raised concerns about the lack of priority queues for the elderly and disabled, as well as families with small children – they had waited in the bus outside MIQ for an hour with another 40 minutes at reception.

Scahill said the family had been given priority to get off the bus first.

He said everyone in MIQ got a full health and wellbeing assessment and could raise any wellbeing concerns as well as accessing mental health clinicians at any time during their stay.

“When travellers book a voucher for MIQ, they will be allocated room/s with sufficient sleeping arrangements for the number of people travelling.

“Requests for room moves are assessed by the health team based on a strict set of criteria to ensure that movement within the facility is kept to a minimum. Room moves are typically only considered for acute health or emergency maintenance reasons.”

It was important to remember managed isolation existed to manage the risk of people spreading Covid on arrival to New Zealand, he said.

“While facilities do their best to provide good service and ensure the comfort of returnees, their primary responsibility is to ensure that they are acting in accordance with our operational framework and infection prevention and control standard operating procedures.”

MIQ was constantly evolving, reflecting the changing nature of the virus. “We are committed to continuous improvement, and capture any learnings and make any necessary changes.”

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