Study finds Aucklanders more likely than MIQ stayers to spread Covid-19

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A group of public health experts say incoming travellers have a lower risk of carrying Covid-19 than the average Aucklander.

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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

They believe people flying into the city from overseas should be allowed to skip MIQ if they’re vaccinated – freeing up more space in the hotels for some of the 2000 Aucklanders who’ve caught the virus and remain at home.

The study was carried out by Otago University academics Lucy Telfar Barnard, Jennifer Summers, Lesley Gray, Michael Baker and Nick Wilson, and published in a blog post today.

It looked at data from incoming travellers from about 70 jurisdictions and concluded the current MIQ requirements were “inconsistent and arbitrary”.

Lucy Telfar Benard said comparing the returnees’ rate of vaccination and positive Covid-19 results with that of the average Aucklander, “there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be at the supermarket with you as well”.

“At the moment that just doesn’t measure up – the barrier we put in place for people coming into Auckland from places with a lower risk, compared to a lack of quarantine for other places where the risk difference is vast. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.

Among Aucklanders infected with Covid-19, she said home isolation was fine for some people with a low-level infection and a suitable home.

However she said it was not ideal when people were in close contact with others, or needed their health to be closely monitored.

“Having more space for those cases to be in a more managed environment would certainly be useful. Freeing up space in MIQ for that would be worthwhile,” she said.

The Grand Millennium managed isolation facility in Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Jordan Bond

Meanwhile the academics say Aucklanders should be required to isolate if they’re visiting other regions.

“As far as we can tell we have a suppression strategy in Auckland and an elimination strategy in the rest of the country while we try to get those vaccination rates up. If we are really serious about maintaining the low – or no – level of Covid in the rest of the country while we do that, then we need to be putting in a greater barrier to infection coming in from Auckland,” Telfar Barnard said.

“I think we’d struggle to convince people to go into MIQ in Taupō on arrival from Auckland but I think some kind of home isolation quarantine model might be workable.”

From the end of this week, stays in MIQ will be halved for returnees from 14 to seven days, followed by isolation at home for three days.

The government has indicated it will then allow some returnees to isolate at home – but not until the first quarter of 2022.

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