Two Italian Crankworx competitors who say they are healthy have been forbidden from competing and forced to self-isolate in their hotel room as a precaution over coronavirus.
Torquato Testa and Stefano Dolfin left Italy for New Zealand on March 1 to compete in the Rotorua leg of global mountain biking festival Crankworx. They arrived on March 3.
On March 2, it was announced that people arriving from northern Italy would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
The measures were to apply to flights departing after 11.59pm on March 3.
However, Testa and Dolfin were quickly contacted and told they needed to self-isolate in their room at the Copthorne Hotel in Rotorua and they would not be permitted to compete at Crankworx.
Testa, who was ranked third in the world at Crankworx, said to make two "totally healthy Italians" self-isolate was a "violation of their human rights".
Not only that, but neither was able to be physically tested for the virus, he said.
Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said Crankworx had followed advice from health professionals that anyone arriving in New Zealand from northern Italy should be in self-isolation for 14 days as it had a significant local spread of Covid-19.
He said a downside of this was that a small number of Crankworx competitors would need to be in isolation and could not participate in the event.
The Ministry of Health had confirmed that the directive was to be applied retrospectively, not just from when it was issued on March 3.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said during a media stand-up today the ministry was aware of a group of Italian tourists who had visited New Zealand just before the self-isolation rules were introduced and some had returned home.
"There was an original group of Italian tourists that has now gone back ... There is some speculation about a group of Italian cyclists who are here in Rotorua and the local public health unit is talking with the organisers of the cycle trip they are on and working with them to just see if we can get the right actions to be taken there."
Shoemack said people who were required to be in self-isolation did not need to be tested as they were not unwell. They were being isolated as a precaution in case they developed symptoms in the coming days.
Crankworx Rotorua confirmed that the pair were the only two athletes who had been caught up in self-isolation from the event.
Crankworx Rotorua event director Ariki Tibble said the health and safety of spectators, athletes, volunteers and staff were their number one priority.
"We are acting in accordance with the directives from the New Zealand Ministry of Health as they relate to public events and mass gatherings."
Testa said the pair had been frantically contacting the embassy, the Ministry of Health, Healthline and other organisations to try to sort out their dilemma.
Since they arrived before the directive was put into place, Testa said it was wrong for them to be "detained".
Before coming to New Zealand, he had contacted numerous health organisations and Crankworx to get clearance to come over and it was granted, he said.
Since being here, they felt as though they had been "intimidated" by health officials to stay in their rooms and not leave, he said. Neither had left their rooms in the last three days.
"We have a right to be pretty mad ... this is discrimination."
Testa, who was a professional athlete, said the rules meant he could not do his job and would affect his career hugely.
"We are both totally healthy and are the only ones who aren't being allowed to compete."
Just this morning, they were told by health officials that they would be able to leave their rooms but had to continue self-isolating by staying away from places where there were large groups of people.
This was in line with Ministry of Health recommendations for self-isolation which said people must avoid any situation where they might come in face to face contact with someone for more than 15 minutes.
A manager at the Copthorne Hotel said they had not been contacted by health officials to let them know the two people were self-isolating in their hotel.
She said the hotel already had Covid-19 precautions in place, including readily accessible hand sanitiser, masks, signage in every room and much more.
"When something like this happens, all hotels go into crisis mode."
She said she would be following up on the self-isolation situation immediately.
Testa and Dolfin were waiting for official confirmation from Public Health, outlining that there was no way they could compete in this weekend's big events.
When that comes, he said they planned to ask for a medical test to prove their health and then try to leave the country as soon as possible.
"There is no point in us just staying here for two weeks."
The Ministry of Health was asked about The Copthorne not being informed about the pair in self-isolation and accusations of being "intimidated" to stay in their room as well as specific questions about the pair's circumstances and whether there were any others in self-isolation in the city.
In response, a Ministry of Health spokesman said in a written statement keeping communities safe and healthy in the current global environment needed a team effort.
"We want to thank the thousands of people who have responded so positively to the self-isolation process.
"Our experience is that voluntary compliance rates for self-isolation are high and people want to do the right thing to protect their family, whānau and community."
They reiterated the Ministry's advice people self-isolate for 14 days if they had been in or transited through mainland China, Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea.