Hospitality Business Magazine

Govt looks to Queenstown & Dunedin for quarantine venues

Hotels are cancelling guest bookings to make way for a big increase in returning Kiwis arriving in the country this week and a feasibility study is currently underway to investigate whether hotels in Queenstown and Dunedin are suitable to assist.

Nearly 3500 New Zealanders are expected to check in to managed isolation and quarantine facilities in the next few days, with a fifth hotel in Christchurch being converted into a border hotel. There are now 26 border hotels up and running.

Hotel guests in Christchurch have had their bookings cancelled at the Distinction Christchurch Hotel to allow it to take up a six-month contract with the Government. Guests were still able to book rooms just over a week ago but have been told  the Distinction would be closed for six months. Fresh government projections for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents returning from overseas predict 751 people will arrive into the country this Thursday alone.

About 2200 will leave facilities after finishing their 14-day quarantine, meaning the number being held in isolation will increase by 1268.

Minister Megan Woods announced the move to investigate Queenstown and Dunedin hotel suitability on July 2 with numbers of New Zealanders returning home expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks and months.

More than 24,000 Kiwis have returned home since March 26 and gone through managed isolation and quarantine at hotels in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Rotorua and Wellington.

A Covid-19 Response Group spokesperson says potential hotel facilities will be assessed based on demand and suitability. This includes preliminary investigation work by the national Managed Isolation and Quarantine Team, and site visits from the group’s on-the-ground teams in the respective locations before any site is assessed to be a suitable location, she says.

Hotels need to meet a strict set of criteria to ensure people staying and working in them are kept safe.

The managed isolation and quarantine building requirements ensure the environment is comfortable and conducive to good health and well-being, including building and equipment compliance with relevant legislation, natural light and reasonable space in rooms, as well as separate toilet facilities in each room.

The scoping work is in the early stages and decisions around further locations across the country are yet to be made, she says.

“At this point we cannot speculate on the exact number or the exact location they will isolate in, but we will look to release information as it becomes available.”

The Government has announced a $298 million budget for quarantine and managed isolation facilities up to the end of the year.

Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White says the move would help the Queenstown and Dunedin communities by providing stimulus to create more jobs in the post-Covid recovery, as well as welcoming more Kiwis home. “I think lessons have been learned by the government recently and I think communities can feel rest-assured that strict measures will be in place so they don’t need to be fearful of any unnecessary risk,” says Julie.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says he’s very supportive of the need to find sufficient capacity for quarantine, and he recognises that this may require looking at alternative locations.

“It is important in the hard-won fight against COVID-19 that we don’t put our communities at risk and can maintain strong border controls that minimise any risk of community transmission,” says Jim.

“However, the Queenstown Lakes District has extremely limited health care capacity in the event that there should be a localised outbreak beyond any quarantine facility, and this should be a significant concern,” he says.

“This real concern is something that should be taken into consideration before any final decision is made and I would recommend discussions should be had with both this council and the Southern District Health Board to further inform that decision.”