Families in the Novotel Ellerslie MIQ facility in Auckland say they have been forced to drink water from a bathroom tap, next to a toilet, after being asked to pay for extra water bottles.
By Indira Stewart
The families are connected to the Auckland Assemblies of God Covid-19 cluster in Māngere and said after arriving on Saturday night, they had not received water with any of their meals throughout the next day.
In messages sighted by TVNZ, they told a relative they had called reception and asked for water but were told they would only get a 600ml bottle of water with their dinner meal and if they wanted extra water, they would have to pay for it or order online from the nearest Countdown, to be delivered to the Novotel facility.
The night duty manager on Sunday told the families they could purchase a 600ml bottle of water for $2 or 10 similar bottles for $6.
Relative Lina Moe said many of her family members had already been hit hard financially due to not being able to work while having to isolate over the past two weeks.
Moe’s parents are pastors at the AOG church and she currently has 19 family members connected to the AOG cluster who were transferred to the Jet Park and Novotel MIQ facilities over the weekend.
The family members' ages range from three years old to 76 years old.
She said she was frustrated and saddened when her relatives told her they were drinking from a tap immediately next to the toilet because they couldn’t pay for water.
“It’s not fair,” she says, “They’re already sick. They need water to help their fever and body aches that they’re having. They have to drink Panadol but can’t get water from anywhere else.
“They’ve been using wet towels to put on their heads to try and bring their fever down. They can’t take Panadol without any water so they’re forced to drink the bathroom water because there’s nothing else.”
Moe called the Novotel reception at 5.10pm on Sunday and spoke to the night duty manager, asking why her family had no proper access to drinking water.
She said she was told by the manager that it was hotel policy that residents had to pay for extra water bottles.
“I said, ‘You can’t make them drink from that water that’s right next to the toilet. When you flush the toilet, all those germs come up and go into the tap or around the area’.
“They want them to drink from there and yet they’re already sick.”
Moe said the manager told her residents would receive a water bottle with every meal but she responded that her relatives said that hadn’t happened all day and they had had to resort to drinking from the bathroom tap.
Moe said the manager told her that the bathroom tap water was “clean, filtered and drinkable”.
“I said to him, ‘Would you honestly tell me that you would drink from that tap next to the toilet?’ and he said ‘yes’.
“I felt really frustrated,” Moe said.
“Our oldies need to take their diabetes medication, heart blood pressure medication - what are they going to use? And that water helps to cool them down.
“I tried to explain that these people were already sick and the last thing on their mind is having to worry about paying for water or finding water.
“He had a bit of a laugh and said ‘Oh well, that’s how it is’.”
Moe said she felt her family members had been treated poorly and described the manager’s attitude as disappointing and disgusting.
“It wouldn’t happen to a Pālagi family. I’m really disappointed that they think that it’s a joke. Our people are really sick and they need it and they didn’t ask to be put in there. It’s so unfair.
“[The night manager] had a mocking tone, no sympathy for our people. He didn’t care if they got sick,” said Moe.
“I’m not even asking for much, all I’m asking for is water. Like, clean proper water. They’re trying to appreciate all the help they’ve been given but all they want is just water.”
Health response frustrating and slow
Family members connected to the cluster have described communications with health authorities as confusing and frustratingly slow.
Lina said several of her relatives were notified that they had tested positive on Friday but were not transferred to MIQ until Sunday night, despite being told they would be transferred immediately.
She said while they waited to be transferred, they were not allowed to leave the house.
“They were running out of food, we had to ring around to try and get someone to drop some off at the footpath for them to get it because we didn’t want to get Covid,” said Moe.
“It should be a health official person helping them out with that kind of stuff and calling them to see if they’re OK because obviously we don’t want to catch it but somebody’s got to help feed them if they don’t have help.”
Moe said families who tested positive were stressed and feeling nervous.
One of her cousins in MIQ had ordered her high blood pressure medication to be delivered to her home but it only arrived the day after she was transferred to MIQ.
The woman was currently experiencing high blood pressure due to stress and the family were worried about how to get it to her.
Moe said families who had tested positive felt embarrassed and ashamed, especially seeing blame and racist comments on social media towards their community.
She said many of the church community had not been vaccinated largely due to lack of education and misinformation.
While Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio told Breakfast on Friday that there had been a targeted Covid-19 response toward Pasifika, Moe said it hadn’t worked.
“There was no communication,” Moe said.
“Many of them have limited English and there was no communication or education from somebody who could explain exactly what the vaccination means.
“The pastors aren’t educated and they need help to explain what the vaccination does. I don’t think they feel confident enough to share with church members.”
Moe said until Covid-19 hit her church community, they had heard nothing from health officials.
She said people in her community often had deep mistrust towards officials due to past bad experiences with authorities like police.
“As soon as Covid hit us, the church felt bombarded by health officials and they closed up because they felt like they were blamed.”
Moe said the disconnection came down to an issue of trust.
“Our Samoan people - once they get Covid, they are embarrassed and they don’t want to be found out. They’ve got to trust someone they know, that’s when they’ll open up big time.”
In a statement a Managed Isolation and Quarantine spokesperson said: "MIQ is committed to making everyone’s stay at our Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities as comfortable as possible. This facility has been working closely with this family and the issue has been resolved directly with them."
The families say they were not contacted directly by MIQ officials or anyone at the hotel. The only person that has contacted them is their pastor’s daughter who is a representative from the AOG church, they say. She called them and said that they are sending water to them as more people are asking for water now. The families also say they did not receive an apology from anyone.
MIQ has been contacted by 1 NEWS for further comment.