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Covid-19 contact moved facilities three times without being tested

A contact of one of our seven new positive cases is in quarantine after being moved between three separate isolation facilities in his first week, without being tested.

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Both cases are in managed isolation facilities in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS

Todd Ealam was moved to the Jet Park Hotel today, where five of our positive cases are staying, including today’s two new cases.

They are a 59-year-old woman who travelled from Delhi, and the young child of the couple who travelled from India, who were announced as cases yesterday.

Mr Ealam was on the same packed flight from Melbourne as this week’s third new case – the man in his 60’s who originally flew from Pakistan and transited via the Australian city as well as Doha.

He’s been in New Zealand for eight days, but still hasn’t been tested for Covid-19, despite being identified as a contact.

Mr Ealam spent his first six days in isolation at Auckland’s Four Points Sheraton, but when he was offered a transfer flight to Christchurch, he jumped at the chance to be closer to home when his isolation ended.

He was signed out by health officials without a test, and was put on a transfer bus along with guests from other hotels to Auckland Airport.

He says he was minutes from boarding when he received a call from the Ministry of Health saying he couldn’t board because he was a contact and hadn’t been tested.

He was escorted by police to the airport Novotel, where he stayed for a night before being moved again to Jet Park today, which is exclusively for people with symptoms and positive Covid-19 cases. He was transported alone in full PPE.

“I’m not allowed to leave my room at all, unless I’m supervised with someone” he says.

“This is a quarantine facility, so it's where staff are on site 24 hours a day.”

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The man was pulled from a transfer flight at the last minute. Source: 1 NEWS

He says all of his symptom and temperature checks so far have been clear, including today’s. He says no one can tell him exactly why he’s in quarantine.

“Here I was checked, they took blood oxygen level, did the whole 9 yards, asked if I had any symptoms. Temperature’s all good, I have no symptoms at all.”

He says he was contacted by the Ministry of Health today, and was asked if he was sitting near the third positive case on the NZ124 flight.

“They said ‘were you sitting close to this person?’ And I thought it was quite a peculiar question because I don't know. I don't know where he was seated, I don't even know what he looks like.”

He says he wants to know why he’s been moved around so much when he’s a known contact of a positive case. He still hasn’t received a Covid-19 test five days after he was supposed to get one.

“I just want clarity. I'm almost getting sick and tired of apologies and 'oh we've very sorry to inconvenience you' with this and that and the next thing. It's just, stop being sorry about it and make it happen.”

Air Commodore Darryn Webb told media today testing at isolation facilities needs to improve.

“That's an area we're absolutely going to be bolstering” he said.

“The key point I would make is that nobody will be released under any managed isolation facility or quarantine facility until they receive a positive confirmation of a negative result.”

1 NEWS has spoken to several people who have left managed isolation without receiving a negative result in the past week, because they were told testing was optional. Health Director general Ashley Bloomfield told media this week people will be kept in isolation longer if they refuse a test.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said Mr Ealam must have had symptoms to be transferred to Jet Park, and that she’d look into it.

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In isolation in New Zealand, the woman was finally tested on June 19, a week late. Source: 1 NEWS

“If you show symptoms of being unwell, you’ll be transferred to the quarantine facility and that is how it should work.”

Minister Woods says she’s seen hostile commentary towards people returning from overseas.

“I want to stress, these people are New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. There is no legal basis to prevent them from returning home.”

The Ministry of Health is still chasing contacts of the two positive cases who landed from the UK on June 7th. It says 25 people are yet to be contacted.

Dr Bryan Betty of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners says he’s disappointed and concerned about lax control of the borders, and that community testing needs to be ramped up as a result.

“GPs are concerned if there has been any leakage of Covid-19 in the community, and it is really, really important over the next 2-4 weeks that there are high levels of testing in the community to ensure there is no community spread.”

“It’s disappointment, really. We’ve worked so hard, we need to keep New Zealand safe because we can’t afford to go backwards.”

Do you have a story about managed isolation? Contact our reporter Kristin Hall on kristin.hall@tvnz.co.nz