1 NEWS can reveal guests who stayed at the same hotel as the two positive cases from the UK were flown to Christchurch part-way through their isolation, and they weren’t tested for Covid-19 first.
Guests from the South Island staying at the Ellerslie Novotel received a letter from quarantine officials on June 13, inviting them on a flight down to Christchurch to a new isolation facility so they could be "closer to home".
One man 1 NEWS spoke to arrived at the Ellerslie hotel on June 9 and has been identified as a contact of the women who tested positive. Cayden Wilson was in the same facility as the women for five days, but said he wasn't tested before the flight and had to ask to be tested on his eighth day in isolation after he’d arrived in Christchurch.
“It’s pretty scary, I never thought I'd be in that position to be a close contact to someone," he said.
"But the fact that I didn't require a test at first when I called the nurses was scary too because I wanted that peace of mind.”
He said he was initially told by nurses at the Christchurch hotel that he didn’t need a test until his 12th day in isolation.
He was later called by the Ministry of Health's contact tracing team and was told he needed to be tested "immediately".
He said all the guests who travelled to Christchurch were made to wear gloves and masks for the duration of the trip, which also included two bus rides, but he was shocked that they were allowed to leave isolation at all.
He said there were “about 100 people” who took the trip. This trip included 11 rooms' worth of guests from the Novotel Ellerslie and other guests from hotels all across Auckland.
“There were people from hotels all over Auckland that were in isolation that got moved to Christchurch. We all merged into one then got on the plane.
“I was very surprised to be moved to a different isolation facility, I wasn't expecting that at all.”
He said the guests included people from the Crowne Plaza hotel.
1 NEWS exposed major flaws in the social distancing procedures at the Crowne Plaza last week, including guests mingling with people from different flights and different arrival dates and members of the public being caught up in public walks.
The transfer flight happened nearly a week after the announcement was made that all guests would have to receive a negative test result before they left managed isolation facilities.
"Everyone in managed isolation will be tested twice for Covid-19 and will require a negative result before they leave” Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on June 9.
“Everyone in managed isolation will be tested twice during that period, whether they have symptoms or not, around day three and around day 12 of their 14-day time in managed isolation.”
Dr Bloomfield said he is aware of the transfer flight, which happened because Auckland isolation facilities are getting too full.
“There are now 15 facilities and in Auckland they are very full, there a lot of people coming in so an additional facility is being stood up in Christchurch” he said.
He said the transfer flights didn’t pose a risk to the public or the passengers.
“There are obviously protocols in place to make sure that the risk is managed for that flight down.”
Dr Bloomfield said Air Commodore Digby Webb is in charge of operational matters at isolation facilities, after it was announced the Defence Force would be brought in to manage them yesterday.
But Dr Bloomfield couldn’t say how many people have left isolation without being tested.
Yesterday, 1 NEWS spoke to multiple people from different hotels who left isolation without a test, or before they received a negative test result.
One of those people had stayed in the Novotel Ellerslie at the same time as the travellers from Britain.
“I don't (know), but I'm finding that information out” Dr Bloomfield said of the numbers.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said: “We are not currently able to provide the number you have requested as this is still being looked at.”
Mr Wilson said before he transferred to Christchurch, social distancing measures at the Novotel Ellerslie were lax.
“We were allowed to order Ubereats and Countdown would come and deliver orders. They would just walk straight past all of us without any sort of worries or social distancing.
“There was one time I was standing at the doors waiting to sign in and the Countdown guy was literally right behind me, definitely not two metres.
"I was like ‘you're from the public!’ It was just weird, I didn't understand it.”
He said health measures have stepped up massively now that he’s in the Commodore Hotel in Christchurch, and he can’t understand why isolation wasn’t that strict from the start.
“In Auckland we weren't required to wear masks when we left the room, we were allowed to talk to everyone from each flight. Here in Christchurch we have to wear masks every time we leave the room.”
He also doesn’t understand why the transfer needed to happen part way through his isolation in the first place.
“I guess there’s more people coming from overseas than there originally was, so the hotel capacity and social distancing in Auckland, they can't handle that anymore maybe.”
Were you on the isolation transfer flight to Christchurch? Do you have a story about managed isolation? Contact our reporter Kristin Hall on firstname.lastname@example.org