Covid-19: Crowne Plaza atrium barrier extended and sealed while leak investigation continues
Work is underway to expand a barrier separating the public from arrivals at the potential New Zealand Delta Leak site, the Crowne Plaza-managed isolation facility in Auckland.
It was revealed this week that six people were in the atrium – a thoroughfare of the facility with possible shared airflow – while the person believed to be the source of the Covid-19 outbreak was in the hotel lobby stopped.
At the press conference on Tuesday at 1 p.m., the Director General for Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, failing to point out whether the public health measures – namely sheets of plexiglass separating the public and MIQ arrivals – were appropriate or possibly responsible for the outbreak, and said he was “confident” about infection prevention controls Furnishings.
On Tuesday evening, an MIQ spokesman confirmed that work was being done to extend and seal the barrier up to the ceiling.
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This work would be completed “as soon as possible,” said the spokeswoman.
It has not yet been decided whether the walkway next to the fresh air area will be completely closed.
Whether the measures in the atrium are sufficient to protect the public has been heated up by officials in recent days.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Bloomfield was asked if measures at the facility “cut the mustard”.
In response, he said it was important to remember that New Zealand had been without Covid-19 for nearly six months and that the facility – and the country’s other MIQ facilities – “served the community well”.
Bloomfield pointed to a Covid-19 case in December involving a Defense Forces employee at a managed isolation facility. In this case, a student who tested positive could not be placed closer than 400 meters from the MIQ employee, he said.
“I think all of our arrangements are incredibly solid,” said Bloomfield.
“The fact that the virus escaped on that occasion doesn’t mean there is a problem there.”
However, the officers constantly tried to learn from these incidents to see what they needed to tweak or change to “improve security”.
When asked why officials are taking a different stance toward health professionals regarding actions at the Crowne Plaza and the vaccination center, Bloomfield said he suspected that experts like himself were not at the venue.
“I am happy to trust the health experts who run the center.”
Public health expert Professor Nick Wilson of the University of Otago, Wellington, said that in general there should be “no common airspace” between potentially infectious people and others.
While it is not yet known how far the SARS-CoV-2 virus can move through the air, Wilson compared virus particles to cigarette smoke. Smoke can be smelled meters away and can travel through cracks under doors or across screens.
“The situation at Crowne Plaza is potentially dangerous to my knowledge,” he said.
Wilson has long urged the government to move managed isolation facilities out of the cities, and he said the Crowne Plaza situation is another example of why this should be done.
Given the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant, it is also “crazy” to have a quarantine facility with active cases in a city.
The Delta variant should be an occasion for a “serious rethinking” of all measures for infection prevention and control on a broad front, he said.
An MIQ spokeswoman said no other facilities had public sidewalks or thoroughfares like the Crowne Plaza.
The Crowne Plaza has been empty since Sunday when his last cohort left. All returnees were released to return to their hometowns under the normal exit procedure.
Meanwhile, well research at the facility continues, although it was “of secondary importance” to eradicating the outbreak, Bloomfield said.
Officials are “very confident” that the outbreak has come here and remain “open-minded” about how it got from the facility to the community.
Widespread testing by staff showed it didn’t appear to have spread that way, and it could have been passed on by one in six people moving through the atrium while the source case was being pulled in, he said.
There is also an “external chance” that the virus could have been introduced into the community by someone with a similar genome sequence: “That is not entirely excluded, but highly unlikely.”
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said it is possible that we never know exactly how the Delta eruption began.