Pullman MIQ facility to reopen to full capacity following report release

Published: 23 April 2021

An independent report into the three transmission events that occurred in January at the Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility in Auckland has been released today.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, which has oversight of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, noted that the report found while it was not possible to conclude with absolute certainty where and how transmission occurred, the most likely mode of transmission was as a result of respiratory particle transmission, which we are learning more about all the time.

The report notes the three cases of transmission occurred in the context of emerging new strains of COVID-19 with higher transmissibility, increased global incidence of COVID, growing international evidence of aerosol transmission and greater awareness of the role of ventilation systems. 

Multiple areas for improvement to reduce the risk of future transmission events had been identified and implemented at the Pullman, both in immediate response to the cases of transmission and in the longer term while remedial ventilation work was undertaken. Some of the measures included operating at reduced capacity (50%) to reduce congestion in shared areas, the introduction of a booking system for exercise and smoking and the installation of CCTV cameras in corridors and lift lobbies. 

Interim changes to the ventilation system and practices included placement of air purifiers in the lifts and corridors, and expanding the use of N95/P2 particulate respirators for workers during any close interaction with returnees in MIFs (noting this applied across all facilities). 

Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay said it was important to note the overall risk to returnees and staff of contracting COVID-19 within our managed isolation and quarantine facilities has been, and remains, extremely low as is the risk of transmission of COVID-19 within MIQ facilities. 

“Here in New Zealand we have a model of acting with caution, a model which has worked well for us as a country and has successfully seen over 133,000 returnees safely transit through managed isolation and quarantine facilities. 

“The MIQ system is a cornerstone of New Zealander’s COVID-19 response and the Ministry of Health and MIQ regularly review our policies and procedures to ensure they are fit for purpose as we learn more about the science behind the virus. One of the things we are becoming more aware of is aerosol transmission and the need to ensure spaces are well ventilated to mitigate that risk,” Dr McElnay said. 

Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, Brigadier Jim Bliss said work was already underway looking at respiratory particle transmission and the role of ventilation systems (especially in confined spaces like lifts and corridors), and was expedited for the Pullman after the January transmission events. This was consistent with MIQs model of continuous improvement and is part of a wider ventilation review across all MIQ facilities. 

“The ventilation work undertaken at the Pullman was to get the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system operating as originally designed. It is important to remember that up until March 2020, these facilities were operating as hotels not managed isolation and quarantine facilities, but when vulnerabilities are identified we need to address them to ensure the continued safety of staff and returnees. 

“I am pleased to advise the ventilation work is now successfully completed and the facility will be accepting returnees from tomorrow. The work done at the Pullman could not have been achieved without critical support and commitment from the owners of the property and Accor who have facilitated this remediation work while continuing to operate as a managed isolation facility. I am grateful for their continued support as part of New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. I also want to acknowledge the workers at the Pullman and across all MIQ facilities, I am extremely proud of the work they do at the frontline of keeping our communities safe from COVID-19”.

MIQ COVID-19 Case Incident Report - Pullman Hotel  [PDF, 1 MB]