More than 150 people in managed isolation have had their quarantine spell extended after two travellers tested positive for Covid just days before they were due to leave.
The joint head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King confirmed that following two confirmed cases in the Novotel Auckland Airport investigations were now under way to find the source of the infection in case there was in-facility transmission.
The two people, one who arrived from Russia and the other from the Maldives on June 14 via the United Arab Emirates, both tested positive for Covid on day 12 during routine testing.
This meant 156 returnees who were ready to leave the Auckland isolation facility have had their departure plans put on ice for up to three days.
King said whole genome sequencing was under way to establish the strain and to determine if there was a link between the pair of isolation facility cases.
"As a precautionary measure, the Medical Officer of Health has required that all those staying at the Novotel Auckland Airport are to remain in the facility until we have the genome sequencing results. This is likely to take 48-72 hours from Monday. This will mean the departure of 156 returnees will be delayed," she said.
King said it was standard health protocol for any cases detected after day 3 to be investigated further.
An Auckland woman who was told she might have to stay in MIQ for another 72 hours has lashed the process the facility management used to inform her.
The woman, who is at Novotel Auckland Airport, said a letter was put under her door 12 hours before she was due to leave the facility, advising her of two new Covid-19 cases among her fellow returnees.
The letter said two people had tested positive for Covid-19 on day 12.
While awaiting the results of genome sequencing, returnees at the same hotel would be required to stay put for up to 72 hours.
"It's the sheer cowardly act of shoving a piece of paper under the door and expecting me to just accept it," she said.
Instead returnees should be informed there was a chance their stay could be extended if another person in their hotel tests positive.
"I don't remember reading anywhere that I could be held for a longer time if someone else in the hotel tests positive.
"[I was] psychologically prepared to go home tomorrow, the suitcase is packed.
"Twelve hours' notice that you are not going home tomorrow is just not good enough."
She was extremely excited to see her husband with the pair planning to go out for dinner to celebrate his birthday, which passed while she was away.
She said she took the responsibility of travelling during Covid-19 times very seriously – and brought testing kits with her back to New Zealand and conducted tests on herself.
"[It's an] overkill, too much. I've done my duty, I've done my 14 days diligently."
The letter - signed by King - asked returnees to "bear with us" as health officials investigated the situation further.
"I apologise for this disruption to your plans. We know this is disappointing for you and the people who are waiting for you to complete your time here."
The letter said the returnees' and New Zealand public's safety was the highest concern.
"We are committed to keeping New Zealand free of Covid-19 and must be confident that everyone who leaves managed isolation meets the public health requirements to return into the community."
The letter said returnees would be updated as soon as possible.
The Ministry of Health's Covid-19 update yesterday said as part of standard protocol, any case detected after day 3 was investigated further to rule out in-facility transmission.
King said officials were doing all they could to ensure the continued comfort of those concerned and, where possible, to assist with travel plans.
"We thank those affected for their continued support and co-operation."