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Delays in transfer to MIQ see dozens of positive cases isolate at home

The time lag between when a person tests Covid positive and their move into a quarantine facility has seen dozens of cases each day isolate at home - with some waiting longer than 24 hours for a transfer. 

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Dozens of positive cases have isolated at home as they wait for a transfer to a facility. Source: 1 NEWS

As positive cases skyrocketed in the first fortnight of New Zealand's Delta outbreak the system was under pressure.

The Jet Park Quarantine Facility was pushed to capacity; the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie in Auckland became a quarantine site for new positive cases, as did the Grand Mercure in Wellington. 

On Tuesday, the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Hotel became a dual managed isolation and quarantine facility. 

However, even as more rooms became available a Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed there was still a backlog getting everyone a room.

"Due to the volume of cases, this process was delayed over the past few days."

Official data released daily on the ministry site indicated that on Saturday there were 86 positive cases still waiting to be transferred.

That figure has been trending downwards; 67 on Sunday, 49 on Monday and 32 Tuesday - albeit these figures were still more than half the number of new cases on their respective days. 

A relative of someone linked to the Assembly of God Cluster says her family was one of those who waited for days. 

"I still got family out in West that have been waiting for a couple of days now, I'm sure it's five or six getting ready to move into MIQ, but no-one has turned up or communicated." 

She says the process has been tough, especially when in one household the mother was the first to test positive and go into quarantine. Then a few days later the grandmother tested positive and also moved into quarantine. 

The woman, who did not want to be identified asks: "Isn't there a better way to work with the community, come up with a solution on how we could move our families...so that it doesn't spread and so that help can be provided for them?" 

Infectious Diseases Physician Kurt Krause says the delay in time getting people into quarantine could increase the risk of the virus spread - given its high rate of transmissability. 

"What's really a little bit scary is that in many cases this transmission occurs before the person has any symptoms - even up to two days before," he says. 

He says given how likely it is whole families will test positive for Covid it's worth looking at how these cases could be better managed in the future. 

"The other alternative is if one person in the family tests positive, does the family move into MIQ as a unit? I think all these things need to be discussed and debated now.

"It might be difficult to make a change in this current lockdown, but maybe for future lockdowns." 

As it stands currently only dependents of the case can be transferred with them. Beyond that the Ministry of Health says families with other extenuating circumstances are considered on a case by case basis.

Pasifika Futures chief executive Debbie Sorensen says it has been a stressful time for the hundreds of families they have been helping support with alternative isolation facilities and food packages. 

"This outbreak has hit our community very hard and very quickly. The difference with Pacific families is that we often live in collective groups," she says.

"People get anxious about a parent being moved into quarantine and leaving the older children. Are they going to be okay? Do they have enough food?

"Those are the every day realities about how this pandemic has impacted our families."