Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is seeking to allay fears about catching Covid-19 from people in isolation in light of five confirmed cases in the past week in returnees in managed isolation or who have just left isolation.
It appears the fears of some residents living in 149 Stamford apartments about potential contact with returnees may have scuppered a new six-month deal the Stamford hotel had with the Government as an isolation facility.
Hotel staff last night told some residents they had been ordered to close the hotel and would be losing their jobs.
The hotel and apartments have separate entrances, and the only shared space would have been the service lift and emergency exit.
Two new Covid-19 cases were identified yesterday in a couple near the end of their 14 days in isolation at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland, who had flown in from India on June 5 on a repatriation flight.
They were tested as part of new routine testing on day 3 and day 12 of mandatory managed isolation for all arrivals.
According to Bloomfield, they had no symptoms and had been transferred to a stricter quarantine facility at the Jet Park Hotel.
Their positive result follows that of a returnee from Pakistan, confirmed on Thursday, and two sisters confirmed on Tuesday who had returned from Britain.
They had been staying in the Novotel Ellerslie and after the death of their mother, were granted early release to drive to Wellington to comfort their father, but tested positive in Wellington.
In a stricter testing regime, everyone at the hotels where the recent cases had been staying and everyone on their flights was now being tested.
Bloomfield said cases were always expected as more New Zealanders returned home.
Before routine testing was announced on June 9, a total of 35 people in managed isolation or quarantine had been confirmed as having had Covid-19. But he stressed the cases had been expected as returnees increased and there was no evidence it had been spread within facilities.
From the beginning of April, when managed isolation started, "we have not seen any further infections as a result of people in managed isolation either within the facilities or once they have left the facilities".
"Our procedures are good."
He said there was no risk of infection of Covid-19 from a fleeting interaction or walking past someone with it.
"You can take a photo which might show people passing each other. It doesn't mean there is a risk or it meets the definition of potential close contact."
But those procedures were being audited to make sure they were "rock solid".
The new head of managed isolation and quarantine, Air Commodore Darryn Webb, also moved to reassure the public about the safety procedures after a week of bad publicity about apparent lax rules.
He set out all the procedures of getting the couple who were confirmed yesterday from their managed isolation hotel to the quarantine hotel – using a dedicated vehicle, driver and assistance in PPE gear, and their former room sealed for 10 days then given a deep clean.
He said last night there had been no decision yet about whether to use the Stamford Plaza hotel and it was still being assessed.
However, the Herald has learned that residents were told on Friday the hotel would be an isolation facility for up to six months by order of the Ministry of Health.
Local MP and National deputy leader Nikki Kaye is planning to meet residents today with health spokesman Michael Woodhouse.
Bloomfield also said that there should be no stigma attached to people with Covid-19.
"It is a virus that does not discriminate."
Because New Zealand had such a small number of cases, those who did test positive received a lot of attention.
"Please remember it could be your relative, mother, brother or sister or father or it could be a friend who has returned home. Please be compassionate and kind.
"We are in this together."