Covid 19 coronavirus: MIQ staffer sacked after bedroom encounter with returnee

A worker at a managed isolation facility in Auckland has been sacked after a bedroom encounter with a returnee.

The employee at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland’s CBD lost their job after a 20-minute encounter with a person who was undertaking their mandatory 14 days of isolation.

MIQ head Brigadier Jim Bliss described the forbidden hotel liaison on January 7 as “incredibly irresponsible and extremely disappointing”.

The hotel worker and returnee have both returned negative Covid-19 tests before and after the encounter. Bliss said health officials have deemed the risk of spreading Covid in the community as negligible to low.

“The rules are very clear – people staying in MIQ facilities must remain physically distant from each other, and from staff members, at all times. The systems and processes in place are robust. This was evidenced by the fact this incident was detected and dealt with immediately,” Bliss said in a statement.

“The actions of the two people involved in this incident are incredibly irresponsible and extremely disappointing. There is absolutely no room for complacency for those inside our managed isolation and quarantine facilities.”

Bliss said the actions of the staff member did not reflect the 4000-strong workforce in the 32 managed isolation and quarantine facilities across New Zealand.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he was informed of the encounter after the staffer delivered a bottle of wine to the room.

Stuff reports that when the male hotel staffer didn’t return promptly, the hotel manager sent the security manager to check. The staff member was caught inside the bedroom.

The staff member was told to leave the hotel and self-isolate at their home. There was an investigation and he has since lost their job.

“It’s unacceptable behaviour, absolutely,” Hipkins said.

Hipkins said the staffer and guest were passing notes – including a message on the back of aface mask. The person was in the returnee’s room for 20 minutes but Hipkins wouldn’t confirm whether the contact included sexual relations.

Hipkins said he didn’t inform the public about the encounter because there was an investigation but did answer when the investigation was completed.

The encounter was at the start of January.

“I do think that is an isolated one-off event,” Hipkins said. “I think one person has let the team down here and that is unacceptable.”

Stuff reports the quarantine sacked worker and the returnee were each given a formal police warning.

MIQ are now investigating whether further security measures are needed.

There are no new Covid-19 cases in the community today after a testing blitz in which more than 6000 people were swabbed yesterday.

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