New Zealand / Covid 19

MIQ ready for Covid-19 infected crew on Spanish fishing vessel Playa Zahara

08:41 am on 16 July 2021

Sixteen people with Covid-19 aboard a Spanish fishing vessel are headed for Christchurch.

But there is no sign of where or how the crew will be cared for.

Lyttelton Harbour. Photo: 123RF / Gary Webber

The Playa Zahara is due to dock in Lyttelton by tomorrow.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) deputy chief executive Megan Main told Morning Report her team was waiting to hear from health authorities about where the crew would stay.

"We don't make the decisions about who comes into MIQ. Our job is to look after them once they are with us."

Main said if the crew from Playa Zahara were assigned to MIQ, they would most likely go to the Sudima Christchurch Airport Hotel.

She said all MIQ facilities operated in an alert level 4 environment.

Main would not say if the demands on MIQ increased as a result of the fishing crew having to be cared for.

"MIQ is here to look after people coming to New Zealand with or without Covid that need to go through our facilities."

The Sudima Christchurch has negative pressure rooms and a dedicated quarantine wing.

"We've got great freedoms in New Zealand that MIQ is part of enabling" - Managed Isolation and Quarantine deputy chief executive Megan Main

This week 16 crew from the Viking Bay fishing vessel were transferred to an onshore quarantine facility in Wellington after becoming unwell.

They are in the Grand Mercure Hotel which, unlike the Sudima Christchurch, has not been designed to keep environments separate and to stop people breathing in others' exhaled breath.

Genome sequencing from 12 of the crew showed they have the Delta variant of Covid-19.

A fairer MIQ booking system in the works

As travellers find it harder to secure a managed isolation rooms, it has come to light that some tech-savvy people are able to game the system.

"The reality is some people will miss out," Main said.

However, there was an emergency allocation process and not everybody qualified for it, she said.

"MIQ has been a great success. We've got great freedoms in New Zealand that MIQ is part of enabling."

Main said steps would be taken to make it easier to get through the booking system quickly.

"There's been a lot of discussion about bots, these scripts that can help people to refresh the page quickly to check dates, to fill in forms," she said.

"In the next few days, we'll be making a change to make it more fair, so that you don't need to repopulate the fields when you refresh the page. So that takes quite a step out of the booking process.

"We added recaptchas, which is where you click those little images to make it fairer to make sure that those scripts don't go through with the booking."

"But ultimately, when we've got more people wanting to come than we've got space it's going to be difficult."