The Ministry of Health has closed a managed isolation facility at a South Auckland hotel and apartment complex, admitting it was wrong to quarantine overseas travellers alongside oblivious residents.
But shocked apartment dwellers have now learned international flight crew are staying in the building, and fear it's putting their lives at further risk from the deadly virus.
One of the residents videoed a confrontation on Monday night with a staffer as Singapore Airlines crew checked in.
In March residents at the Ramada Manukau were stunned to discover overseas travellers were being quarantined in the building during the level 4 lockdown.
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They only realised after seeing nurses and Civil Aviation officials stationed in the lobby, some wearing personal protective equipment to manage the returnees.
The ministry now says the hotel operator may have breached workplace safety obligations by failing to notify residents about the potential Covid-19 health risks.
The Ramada operator, Marsden Group, says it followed all official protocols and has done nothing wrong.
The seven-storey building's first three floors house the Ramada Suites hotel while the upper four floors are privately owned apartments. Apartment dwellers share common areas with hotel guests, including the lobby, stairwells and elevators.
In April a 66-year-old apartment owner complained to the Associate Health Minister, Prime Minister and ministry, telling the Herald residents were being put in danger, particularly older people who were vulnerable to Covid-19.
The man eventually received a letter from the ministry's National Health Co-ordination Centre director Jane Kelley in May.
She acknowledged residents' concerns, particularly those who were elderly or with serious health conditions, but said the "managed isolation" facility had now been closed.
Marsden Group had agreed to accommodate overseas travellers needing short-notice isolation after being approached by the ministry, Kelley said.
"Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Marsden Group had an obligation to conduct a risk assessment prior to accepting the contract and accommodating guests. That obligation should have extended to issuing any notices or warnings to the residents. It appears from your correspondence that this may not have occurred."
When the ministry discovered the building was a mixed use isolation facility and apartment complex, "I can assure you that steps were taken immediately to address this by facilitating a notice being issued to the residents ... and closing the facility as soon as it was possible to do so".
Kelley said any new contracts for managed isolation were "very clear on our expectations in this regard".
Residents spoken to by the Herald welcomed the isolation facility being closed but were dumbfounded that foreign flight crew were now being allowed to stay in the building.
The resident who videoed a confrontation on Monday night said he believed foreign airline crew were even higher risk than returning travellers and he'd now raised his concerns directly with the Government.
Another resident said it made no sense to close the managed isolation facility but instead offer accommodation to foreign crew during the pandemic.
"It's incredible, we're talking about border control. These people came from the airport with no proper protocols in place.
"There's been no communication to residents, nobody knows how they are being managed."
Marsden Group director Sajad Bassam said Ramada was never a managed isolation facility, despite it being referred to as such by the ministry.
He said the company had done nothing wrong and followed all necessary protocols.
He would not comment on suggestions it had failed to meet health and safety obligations, saying he had not seen Kelley's letter.
Foreign airline crew had their own safety protocols, and he referred questions about the potential risk to Singapore Airlines.
"There is no requirement from the Government for them to self-isolate. We don't set the rules, we follow the rules."
Bassam said apartment residents were spreading "misinformation" and damaging the Ramada brand, and he planned to consult his lawyers.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said the Ramada contract was cancelled once officials discovered the building's mixed use, to ensure it "was no longer being used as an isolation facility".
"We are aware that Singapore Airlines' aircrew stay at the Ramada and we have worked with the airline to obtain assurances that they are managing their air crews' stay in accordance with Ministry requirements."
Aircrew must follow strict protocols to protect themselves against Covid-19 and hotels must be able to meet certain requirements, including the ability to keep crew separate from other members of the public.