Three Rotorua transitional housing motels are in lockdown with health teams working on site after guests tested positive for Covid-19.
The Grand Treasure on Pukuatua St and Tuscany Villas and neighbouring Emerald Spa, both on Fenton St, are fenced off with security staff working around the clock.
Lakes District Health Board has confirmed incident management teams are working at the three motels and moving positive cases to the new community isolation facility at Lakes Lodge Ōkataina, near Rotorua, as quickly as possible.
It comes as the Ministry of Health announced 14 new community cases in the wider Lakes area – including Rotorua and Taupō – yesterday, bringing the health board region’s total active cases to 63. Nine of the new cases were linked to previously announced cases and the rest were being investigated for possible links.
Toi Te Ora Public Health data provided yesterday showed that, since November, there had been 19 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Rotorua transitional housing.
Those staying at the motels were being tested regularly by health staff in full PPE and all needs, including meals, were being delivered to each room.
Those staying at the motels were considered close contacts and could not leave. The public was not allowed to visit.
A Rotorua man, who suspects he has Covid-19 and is self-isolating in his car, described the “misery” of his two Covid-19-infected relatives isolating at a motel.
Speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post on the condition he wasn’t named, has only been able to wave to his relatives from the footpath.
His relatives were tested for Covid-19 due to a positive case at their motel. They returned positive results, despite not displaying any symptoms.
The man said he had been with his relatives last week and now had symptoms, including sore throat, blocked nose, cramps and cold sweats.
He was awaiting test results. He said he was not vaccinated.
He had chosen to self-isolate in his car since Friday last week because he didn’t want to infect anyone else.
“The misery of it … I was going to stay with a friend until I went back to work but as soon as they [the relatives] got quarantined I decided against it.”
The health board was asked what steps were being taken to ensure people were safe and not mingling.
Strategy planning and funding director and Covid in community incident leader Karen Evison said an incident management team had been put in place with all relevant organisations supporting those in the three motels.
“Daily virtual hui are being held to ensure all urgent and immediate needs are known and resolved as fast as possible. All three of these facilities’ residents and staff are considered close contacts and are required to isolate and undergo regular Covid testing.”
She said positive cases and close contacts who needed help to isolate were moved as soon as possible.
All residents had a full health assessment and nurses and health care assistants were doing daily checks, she said.
“All staff on the sites are wearing full PPE and have had additional training and support to keep themselves safe.”
She said all staff were following health guidelines.
Extra security and fencing have been added to the facilities to ensure the public didn’t walk through and allow residents space to isolate safely.
Meals and welfare support were being provided to support people to remain isolated.
Ruku Ora, a mobile swabbing team from Te Arawa, had been on site doing close contact swabbing, she said.
“A large range of organisations and the residents have taken steps to both protect themselves and reduce the risk to the public.”
The health board said in a statement a cross-sector agency group had been working for months to plan for such a situation.
“The group was able to mobilise quickly to manage the emerging cases in emergency housing.”
The statement said the health board encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and follow public health advice, wear a face mask in public, scan in, regularly wash their hands, maintain physical distancing, stay home if unwell and get a test.
A woman isolating at one of the motels, who didn’t want to be identified, told the Rotorua Daily Post she was a close contact because she lived in the accommodation.
She said everyone was tested every few days and were being kept informed and supported. They weren’t told of anyone else’s results or how many positive cases were confirmed each day.
Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of Health Dr Jim Miller said there had been 107 confirmed cases in Rotorua since November 12 last year including 19 in transitional housing.
“It is concerning that we are seeing cases in a more vulnerable part of our community. All cases and contacts required to self-isolate in our community are supported should this be required.”
He encouraged people to stay up-to-date with Covid vaccinations.
Te Arawa Covid-19 Response Hub co-chairman Monty Morrison said the role of Te Arawa Covid-19 Response Hub was to ensure all whānau were supported.
“Te Arawa Whānau Ora as part of that effort are intricately involved in providing wrap-around support on referral from Toi Te Ora Public Health.”
He said they, along with other iwi and government agencies, were also involved in supporting Lakes Lodge Ōkataina.
The two Fenton St motels are run by Visions of a Helping Hand. A spokesperson said trustees were not able to comment as Covid matters were the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health.
Palm Court Motel, next door to Emerald Spa, owner Mike Raynes said Visions of a Helping Hand chief executive Tiny Deane had kept him informed.
Raynes said he wasn’t overly concerned about the positive cases as the motels were well-fenced and it appeared everyone was doing the right thing.
He said he was one of only about five or six motels in the Fenton St area that didn’t take social housing clients but his guests were safe and a fair distance away.
“There’s no reason why they’d mix with the people here. They’ve (Visions of a Helping Hand) employed their own security and are checking people in and out. It’s been run efficiently from what I can see.”
Rotorua Lakes Council acting chief executive Oonagh Hopkins said the council was not involved in providing security or support, apart from sourcing additional fencing. It was on standby if help was needed.
Spokespeople from the Ministry of Social Development and the Government’s Covid-19 Response Group referred the Rotorua Daily Post to the health board for comment.
Rotorua’s testing station is at the Copthorne Hotel, entrance off Ward Ave, from 8.30am to 3pm Monday to Sunday.
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