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'Some of us can be victimised about it' – MIQ staff member shares stigma, sacrifices over work

An Auckland quarantine worker has described the stigma associated with working at a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility, along with the sacrifices he has had to make during his almost year-long placement.

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Drew Leafa has worked at Auckland’s Jet Park facility since it opened in early 2020. Source: 1 NEWS

Drew Leafa has worked at Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility since it opened in early 2020.

He was the second MIQ worker to get vaccinated today as New Zealand’s mass Covid-19 immunisation roll-out officially began.

Leafa is the Operations manager at Jet Park and is responsible for the day-to-day management of operations on site.

He said it was a privilege to be involved in such an important part of keeping New Zealand safe, but also said there has been sacrifices along the way.

“I love my rugby and I couldn’t play last year because I didn’t want the team to find out where I was working and all that kind of stuff," Leafa said.

“When people find out we are at Jet Park, the stigma and some of us can be victimised about it – that’s the toughest thing.

“What we are trying to do is to let everyone know that what we are doing is for the country, but at the same time, we are doing our job to protect all the Kiwis returning back home – make them feel welcome and when they leave there, they feel like they’ve been looked after.

“It’s a tough one,” he said, explaining his life is now “cautious in every way”, including carrying hand sanitiser everywhere. 

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He said MIQ workers are subject to strict protocols and get health checks every day and Covid-19 swabs every week.

Leafa reckons his left nostril “has been violated about 44 times”.

“Everything we do at the facility is making sure we are fit to work.”

He said if anyone turns up with the “slightest symptom – a cough, a runny nose" they are sent home.

“We take every precaution.”