The Government has announced a major shake-up of managed COVID-19 isolation facility protocols following the release of two British women from an Auckland facility who later tested posted for Coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the appointment of Air Commodore, Darryn Webb as Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine on Friday and said the number of New Zealand Defence Force staff deployed at managed COVID-19 isolation facilities would be doubled.
Housing Minister, Megan Woods will take on responsibility for Managed Isolation and Quarantine, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment named as the lead agency.
“We are determined to ensure that this critical line of defence against COVID-19 is robust and meets the expectations of New Zealanders; that every action we took as a collective five million to stamp out the virus, applies in these facilities,” Ms Woods said.
“We have come too far to lose the precious situation we are in; one of the few countries in the world without community spread of COVID-19 and a relatively open economy and society.”
In addition to doubling staff numbers at isolation facilities, Air Commodore Webb is set to initiate an urgent end-to-end audit of facility protocols and their application, which will be supported by Senior Department of Corrections staff and NZ Police officials.
Air Commodore Webb said the review would ensure all protocols at the facilities are fit for purpose.
“I understand that every New Zealander will be concerned by what has eventuated this week, and will want to know as soon as possible that our processes and procedures are adequate. I am committed to ensuring we understand what has happened and fix any shortcomings,” he said.
Air Commodore Webb will also assume personal oversight of exit testing to ensure no-one leaves a facility without a negative COVID-19 test.
Defence Force leads, who will report directly to Air Commodore Webb, will also be appointed in each facility.
“Clear expectations on their accountability and responsibilities have been relayed to them,” Air Commodore Webb said.
“There is no doubt this is a complex matter, but our managed isolation and quarantine facilities are now the most important part of our collective defence against COVID-19 while we remain in a global pandemic and need to operate safely and within agreed protocols.”
Air Commodore Webb also announced the immediate suspension of private functions in managed isolation facilities.