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Covid 19 coronavirus: Pullman Hotel – Government introduces tough new rules for exercising, smoking

Tough new rules for exercise and smoking have been introduced at the Auckland managed isolation facility at the centre of the latest Covid community outbreak.

A returning Kiwi at the five-star Pullman hotel says new measures have been introduced overnight allowing returnees to get out of their rooms for limited times throughout the day.

But everyone wanting to escape their accommodation for some exercise or have a cigarette now must book a time slot.

As well, only those returnees on the same flight will be allowed in the same common area at the same time.

The woman, who flew in a week ago from the Philippines after three years, said all slots were allotted on a strict time basis.

Only 10 minutes had been allocated, with a maximum of two people sharing the smoking area at any one time.

While there did not appear to be a limit on numbers that could use the exercise yard, just 20 minutes had been allowed for people to burn up energy.

She said it generally took at least five minutes to reach the exercise area on the hotel’s ground floor, meaning this would cut into the allocated time.

Despite the tough new regulations, the woman who did want to be named, felt the new measures were in the best interests of everyone based there for their fortnight of quarantine.

“It’s very, very strict here.There’s absolutely no contact with anyone else. Even when they’re testing us you’re not allowed to touch anything. I got told off when I touch the wall.”

She said there had been no communication from management about whether people who had finished their mandatory 14 days could yet leave.

The Government has placed a number of restrictions on the facility after four people contracted the contagious South African variant in recent weeks during their stay.

Officials were continuing to investigate the latest Covid-19 outbreak at the hotel with the facility now closed to new arrivals.

Once all those currently isolating have left, it will undergo a hospital-grade “deep clean”.

As well as this, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday announced that all returnees across all managed isolation facilities would now be required to stay in their rooms for the last two days of their time in quarantine.

Attempts are being made to get in contact with everyone who left the Pullman between January 9 and 13, with health officials telling them to get a test and self-isolate.

Hipkins said that of the 353 guests who left the facility over that period, 303 had tested negative for Covid-19.

Yesterday 48 people remained outstanding, withAustralian health officials claiming at least 12 people who stayed at the hotel had travelled across the Tasman and beyond.

Prime Minister on the Pullman and MIQ

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wanted advice from health officials on extra measures for travellers after completing managed isolation amid a fresh Covid-19 outbreak detected in an adult and child.

Ardern said “something had happened”, resulting in the virus being spread among guests at the Pullman Hotel isolation facility. As a result no new returnees were coming into the Pullman while the situation was being investigated.

Asked if new rules could be put in place to prevent returnees leaving their rooms at MIQ facilities, Ardern said there were protocols in place for people who were getting fresh air.

“If they need to be tightened because of what we find in this, we will do it,” she said.

Officials were looking at whether guests should stay in their rooms at the tail-end of their stay while they wait for test results, like they do at the start of their stay.

“We have allowed people to get fresh air [because] they are in small confined spaces we are mindful the fact that the vast majority of people do not have Covid in these facilities and just enabling people to get through their two weeks but in the safest way possible, that’s the balancing act,” she on Thursday.

Ardern said she was confident in New Zealand’s systems and said that Australia’s decision to suspend quarantine-free travel was up to its officials.

Asked about further safeguards at MIQ facilities, Ardern said the new cases were still linked to the border.

New rules have come into place since the further positive tests and would make a difference, she said.

“It is clear due to the link to these cases that something had happened,” she said.

Further investigations were underway to understand how the infection had taken place at the Pullman Hotel.

“We’ve had tens of thousands of people successfully move through but we’re looking at further assurances,” Ardern said.

Asked how the infection happened, she said nothing was being ruled out and that it could be surface-to-surface transfer, transfer via the air or people simply passing each other.

“The people who work in managed isolation facilities are heroes,” the Prime Minister said when asked if staff at those centres need to pick up their game.

Asked if there was too much contact at the Pullman Hotel between returnees, Ardern said officials were being rigorous at working out what had happened.

“They are being kept in their rooms while we work through this issue,” she said.

No new returnees were coming into the Pullman Hotel while the situation was being investigated.

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