Returning travellers are outraged after hopping on a bus they thought was going to Auckland's CBD for managed quarantine - but ended up in Rotorua.

They say they were given no warning of where they were going and weren't given any time to go to the toilet or even get a bottle of water before being herded onto the bus.

"Everyone responded in disbelief, they thought it was some kind of joke. But it became clear once we really were out of the city limits that we were on our way to Rotorua," one traveller, who did not want to be named, told the Herald.

The Government's National Emergency Management Agency confirmed two new managed isolation facilities had been set up in Rotorua this weekend to cater for more arrivals.


In total, 232 returnees were transferred by seven dedicated buses from Auckland International Airport following their arrival on three flights from Australia yesterday.

There are now 4272 people in 20 managed isolation facilities across the country, including the two in Rotorua and the remaining 18 in Auckland and Christchurch.

The male traveller said he arrived from Sydney around 5pm on Saturday with the presumption he would be travelling to Auckland's CBD to check in to a hotel.

He was escorted to a bus by police, and it was only when he was on the road that the bus driver alerted him and fellow passengers they were heading to Rotorua.

"People were generally distressed by the situation, some of whom had been travelling for days from Europe, some were elderly, and others on another bus had children."

He said he was grateful the Government was providing quarantine facilities for returnees -but was concerned about the lack of consideration shown towards him and other passengers.

"There was firstly a lack of communication and it wasn't explained to us why we were going there.

WHO warns coronavirus pandemic is "accelerating" and has reached "a new and dangerous phase". Video / AP

"But secondly, there was a lack of consideration concerning our bus journey. Because there was no communication before the fact that we were told we were off to Rotorua so we couldn't prepare for a three and a half hour bus ride.

"It would have been a reasonable thing to do right, let us go to the toilet and fill up drink bottles, just things like that."


Rotorua's National MP Todd McClay echoed the man's concern, saying it was outrageous the Prime Minister didn't bother to tell anyone about this.

"Some of the hotel staff didn't even know - we need answers now."

Multiple reports on social media from travellers shared similar responses, saying it was incredibly upsetting not know where they were going after a long trip.

"We weren't told where we were going, so no chance to grab food, water or take a bathroom break," Ellen Falconer said on Twitter.

One person on Facebook said Rotorua's Ibis Hotel was given two hours' notice that returnees would be arriving.

Another said: "There are two buses heading [to Rotorua] and no one has informed us on what is going on or if we will have onward travel once our 14 days are up ... I have a flight leaving for Christchurch the next day and my stress levels are running pretty high."

One person staying at Auckland Airport's Novotel Hotel said she had seen at least 20 buses leave the airport yesterday and there were another six buses waiting for passengers last night.

It comes after fears from residents who live atop the Stamford Plaza Hotel where 12 busloads of people were intended to head for quarantine.

The 149 Stamford apartments above the eight-storey hotel are home to about 300 people, many of whom are older and at higher risk of severe complications or death if they catch Covid-19.

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Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who was has been appointed this week to oversee the operations of all quarantine and managed isolation facilities, said plans to use the Stamford Hotel were on hold until he was satisfied it was suitable as a managed Isolation facility.

"We are working to address capacity due to the increase in arrivals and may look to other regions to help accommodate future arrivals."

Webb said as more New Zealanders came home, the country needed to expand its managed isolation facilities and review processes to ensure border protections remained robust.

"Repatriation needs to happen in a safe and managed way which will impose additional inconveniences on travellers, Webb said.

"And while I sympathise with new restrictions travellers face, I make no apologies for the tough rules that are in place. Those returning to New Zealand will require personal sacrifices in order to keep the country free of Covid-19 spread."

He said Government agencies worked together with district health boards to open two new hotels in Rotorua to ensure the safe transition of people back into New Zealand and the community after their 14-day managed isolation.

"In total, 232 returnees were transferred by seven dedicated buses from Auckland International Airport following their arrival on three flights from Australia yesterday.

"The buses had a bathroom stop at Waharoa. Protocols were put in place to ensure the bathroom facilities were cleaned after the stop."

In Rotorua, the people were moved off the bus in groups and met Government and health staff. They were given a briefing, completed medical forms, seen by a nurse, received food, and then taken to their rooms.

Webb said they would be given more information today.

"I acknowledge that those arriving on this flight had an expectation they were completing their managed isolation in Auckland. However, an increase in arrivals returning to New Zealand has required alternative plans to be put in place."

Seven confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the past week have been returnees in managed isolation or who have just left isolation.

Today, there were two new cases of Covid-19, one was a child under 2.

The young child belongs to the couple announced yesterday as cases who had recently arrived from India.

The second case is a 59-year-old woman who travelled from Delhi and arrived in Auckland on June 15 on flight AI1316.

On Friday, another two cases were identified - 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.

The Herald has approached the Ministry of Health for comment.

According to director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, the couple 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.