Covid-19 Omicron outbreak: MIQ returnees infuriated test delays are keeping them trapped in Rotorua hotel

Eighty frustrated MIQ returnees have been told they cannot leave their Rotorua hotel yet because of delays in getting the results for their final Covid-19 test.

Joanne Zorkendorfer and her family were set to leave the Rydges Hotel in Rotorua and travel to Auckland early this morning after completing the required 10-day stay in managed isolation quarantine.

During their stay in returnees must have a Covid-19 test on day five or six and day eight or nine.

However, Zorkendorfer was told yesterday afternoon they wouldn’t be allowed to leave because the day eight test results had not come back yet.

Zorkendorfer has spent the past 18 months trying to return to New Zealand to visit her terminally ill mother.

“When you come into the country you make an agreement that you will stay in quarantine for 10 days.

“Now the agreement has been broken and we are completely powerless to change it,” she said.

Zorkendorfer said it was “infuriating” to be told just hours before they were set to complete their 10-day stay that they could not leave.

“It feels like no one is advocating for us and it feels like no one cares,” she said.

Since arriving in the country, Zorkendorfer said test results have taken around three days to return.

She said she left like a “number”, trapped in MIQ.

“There is a lot of control and a lot of mismanagement for the sake of keeping everyone safe, which doesn’t make sense because Omicron is already in the community.”

Zorkendorfer and other returnees in the hotel do not know when their test results will return and when they will be allowed to leave.

“The Government has lost all credibility if it cannot live up to its own strict standards and cannot follow through and treat its own citizens respectfully and humanly.”

Laura Ceja said she had called reception at 7am and had been told the tests still hadn’t been received.

Everyone was frustrated and annoyed and some people were worried they would miss out on connecting flights this afternoon, she said.

Ceja questioned why priority hadn’t been given to tests of those ready to be released.

Another returnee in the same facility said the group had complied with every requirement set by the Government and he alone had completed five tests since arriving in MIQ 10 days ago.

“And then the phone call came at 7pm on the eve of my release telling me that we were not going home tomorrow and that we were staying here indefinitely.”

He also questioned why a rapid test was not acceptable for his final release when he was able to use one to board his flight to New Zealand using a rapid test. Some guests had been in tears after hearing the news last night, he said.

Head of MIQ Chris Bunny confirmed the laboratory processing the tests hadn’t been able to provide the results yet, which meant the guests’ departure had to be delayed.

“The decision to extend their stay has been made by MIQ on the basis of the advice of the medical officer of health because we could not be satisfied that the returnees are at a low risk of having or transmitting Covid-19,” he said.

One person in the group had tested positive on day five so they were taking every precaution.

MBIE had asked the lab to prioritise returning the results and people would be able to begin the exit process as soon as they were received.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this causes and for the disruption to returnees’ travel plans. We will work with those affected to assist them with rearranging their plans.”

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