New Zealand

MIQ staffer fired after 'unacceptable' bedroom encounter

14:19 pm on 29 January 2021

An employee at a managed isolation hotel in Auckland has lost their job after an "encounter" with an isolated returnee in their room that lasted 20 minutes.

The Grand Millennium Hotel, which is being used as a managed isolation facility, in Auckland CBD. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Speaking at today's Covid-19 update - where it revealed there were no new community cases - Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he was told a MIQ staffer had an encounter with a returnee after the worker delivered a bottle of wine to their room at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland.

He said there was an investigation and the staffer had lost their job.

"It's unacceptable behaviour, absolutely."

The staffer and guest passed notes, including on the back of a facemask. The person was in the returnee's room for 20 minutes.

"I cannot control the actions of nearly every individual.

"I think one person has let the team down here and that is unacceptable."

Brigadier Jim Bliss, Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine said the security measures at the hotel meant this incident was detected quickly by the hotel manager when they realised the worker had not returned.

"They dispatched the hotel security manager who discovered the worker in the room. The staff member was immediately sent home and instructed to self-isolate at home and be tested, on advice from health authorities."

The returnee was given a formal written warning by police. Both the worker and the returnee had returned negative test results both before and after the incident.

"We're not aware of any other reports of situations like this between staff and returnees," Bliss said.

"The actions of the two people involved in this incident are incredibly irresponsible and extremely disappointing. There is absolutely no room for complacency for those inside our managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

"The rules are very clear - people staying in MIQ facilities must remain physically distant from each other, and from staff members, at all times. The systems and processes in place are robust. This was evidenced by the fact this incident was detected and dealt with immediately."