There was only one person who stayed in the secluded Grand Mercure hotel in Wellington last week, leaving over 100 rooms typically used by returning Kiwis empty.
The managed isolation and quarantine confirmed that the hotel had only one guest between October 21 and 28.
This left 88 isolation rooms and 13 empty quarantine rooms in the hotel, the Stuff outlet said.
He said he also understood that up to 50 staff remained at work over the past week and that a lone guest arrived on a private plane following a family issue in Nova Scotia. Zealand.
“Other guests have not stayed at this property to maintain the cohort system between incoming and outgoing guests,” MIQ said in a statement.
“The last cohort of 65 returnees left on October 21. The next cohort of 105 returnees [was] due to arrive at the facility [on] October 28. “
The cohort system – or group admission – is designed to reduce the chances of the spread of Covid among guests within an isolation center, the government said.
It works by ensuring that people arriving in New Zealand within four days of each other are transferred to the same managed isolation center.
“Returnees arriving in New Zealand within a 96-hour window are delivered to MIQ facilities until they are full or the 96-hour period is over,” the MIQ website says.
“The facilities then close their doors until the end of the reunification cycle, with no further returnees allowed in until the last of the cohort has completed their stay and the facilities have been cleaned.”
Cohort cycles can take between 18 and 20 days.
This is made up of 14 days to cover the Covid isolation period, plus four additional days for late arrivals to also complete their isolation, and then an additional 1 to 2 days to clean the hotel.
The system does mean, however, that up to 15% of the country’s managed isolation rooms can remain empty at any time.
National Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop called the news of the nearly empty hotel “unbelievable.”
“It’s a huge slap in the face for the tens of thousands of offshore Kiwis who are desperately trying to get home,” he said.
“As the stranded Kiwis logged in and spent hours sitting in front of a computer screen in the virtual MIQ lobby and making desperate requests for emergency allowance, almost an entire hotel was empty.”
This is because the government has been unable to meet the demand for isolation rooms run by returning Kiwis wishing to return to the country from overseas before Christmas.
Its new virtual lobby room reservation system regularly has tens of thousands of Kiwis competing for one of the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 MIQ rooms.
“This latest debacle deepens inequalities on top of the already inequitable system where fully vaccinated travelers enter MIQ for 14 days while more than 200 people with Covid-19 isolate themselves at home in the community,” Bishop said.
“Travelers who are fully vaccinated with negative pre-departure tests pose a negligible risk to New Zealand, as the data I revealed last week shows.
However, the government announced yesterday that arrivals from several South Pacific countries will be able to enter New Zealand without MIQ requirements from November 8.
For other arrivals, the time spent at the MIQ will be shortened and followed by a period of home isolation.
The option of home self-isolation will be offered to a growing number of fully vaccinated travelers during the first quarter of 2022.