Homeless man allegedly stayed in COVID-19 quarantine facility for two weeks

coronavirus 18/06/2020

A homeless man snuck into a five-star hotel operating as a COVID-19 quarantine facility for new arrivals and stayed there for two weeks, the Opposition's health spokesperson claims.

Michael Woodhouse made the shocking new allegation of incompetence against the Ministry of Health to The AM Show on Thursday morning. Although the anecdote is "unverified", he said he obtained the information from an Auckland-based health professional.

The "reliable source" told the National Party spokesperson that the homeless man got away with staying in a five-star Auckland hotel, currently operating as a quarantine facility for returned New Zealanders, under the guise of being a new arrival completing his 14 days of mandatory isolation. 

"One of the five-star hotels housed a homeless person for a couple of weeks under the pretense that it was someone who came back from overseas. When the person was ready for discharge, he was asked for a forwarding address, only to tell the official that he didn't have one - because he was homeless," Woodhouse revealed to The AM Show.

"He hadn't come back from overseas, he just joined the back of the queue two weeks ago, and spent a fortnight getting three square meals and a bath every day on the Government.

"It just shows what a shambles this thing is. The ministry should be managing this - it's not actually rocket science."

When host Duncan Garner raised the possibility of the story being fabricated, Woodhouse said he would be happy to investigate the claim further.

"I'm quite happy to dig further into it, but there will be a number of anecdotes like this," he said.

Woodhouse also revealed that a woman who had been jailed for non-compliance with managed isolation protocol was released from Auckland South Corrections Facility - also known as Wiri Prison - before her positive test result for COVID-19 was returned.

"The authorities [had] to scramble the police to try and find her somewhere in the country, because they didn't know where she went. They ultimately found her in Palmerston North some time later. Another terrible lapse in judgement by letting a person out before the positive test came back - and the possibility that a number of other New Zealanders could have been exposed to the virus.

"That was several weeks ago. The ministry knows about it, but you don't."

The National MP claims he has received numerous emails from returned New Zealanders outlining failures in the Ministry of Health's managed isolation system, including no mandatory testing, no social isolation and the mixing of different arrival groups - meaning someone who has almost completed their 14 days of isolation could be exposed to the virus by a new arrival.

When speaking to Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield following the interview, Garner said Woodhouse had accused the Government and public service of withholding information regarding the truth behind some cases.

Dr Bloomfield fired back that he had always been open with the public.

"I have made myself available every day to answer questions and part of our approach has been to be really transparent and honest. I think New Zealanders have seen that because we needed to build trust if we were going to ask them to go into a lockdown situation," he said, adding that is has never been the ministry's style to withhold information.

The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment on Woodhouse's claims.