New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities would be unlikely to be able to accommodate all Covid-19 cases if faced with a widespread community outbreak of the virus.
That's according to a November 2020 incoming minister briefing document for Chris Hipkins, which has only been released publicly recently by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.
New cases of Covid-19 have been directed to quarantine facilities since the middle of August, following a direction from director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
The direction given in August was renewed on October 14, 2020, the document said, and if case number were "low", accommodating community cases would "likely" be manageable within existing contingencies.
However, this option would be unlikely to be sustainable if the country faced a widespread community outbreak, it said.
"At present, it is difficult to forecast with any accuracy possible demand from domestically
"However, if community transmission were to become more widespread, and the number of domestically acquired cases required to enter MQFs significantly increased, an approach of accommodating all community cases in MQFs is unlikely to be sustainable."
MBIE said in a statement today that additional rooms for quarantine can be made available as part of MIQ's contingency planning.
"If New Zealand experienced a widespread Covid-19 outbreak, it is unlikely that we would be able to fit everyone in our existing quarantine facilities. However, by this stage, New Zealand would likely be in a level 3 or 4 lockdown where people would be isolating at home."
MIQ works closely with the Ministry of Health and is constantly monitoring the demand for quarantine in facilities, it said.
"There are contingency plans in place if we see a jump in positive cases returning to the country that demand an additional quarantine capacity."
This comes off the back of concerns of staff shortages and instability raised by nurses working at managed isolation facilities across the country.
The problems were recognised in an audit by the Ministry of Health in October, and while the ministry said the matters had been addressed - RNZ reported many health care professionals working at border facilities disagree.
The minister briefing document said as of November 2020, there was an operational capacity of 6261across 32 facilities in five locations nationally.
In the latest forecast for managed isolation capacity, the total operational capacity across the country is 4500 with 4281 rooms allocated.
1 News reported this week that despite there being 4500 MIQ rooms in total, there were just over 4600 bookings next month.
MBIE said it overbooks because not everyone with vouchers will end up using them.
Meanwhile, the Government is investigating automated computer systems that are being used to book managed isolation vouchers for returning Kiwis, following a report by 1 NEWS.
MBIE said to 1 NEWS it's trying to stop the programmes, which are being used by Kiwis that are finding it hard to get the vouchers, and that its voucher system was designed to give everyone equal opportunity.
The MIQ fees regime came into force on August 11. The briefing document showed as of October 18, 4382 rooms were potentially liable for charges, with waivers available in circumstances where payment would cause undue hardship.
Just over 400 waivers were approved as of October 18 and only 78 invoices had been paid, recovering $246,621.
Given guests have 90 days to pay, the low number of invoices paid was not unexpected, the document said.