Statement from Air Commodore Darryn Webb: COVID-19 positive quarantine facility staff member

Published: 03 November 2020

Last night the Ministry of Health confirmed a member of the health team working at the Sudima Christchurch Airport Managed Isolation and Quarantine facility has tested positive for COVID-19.

My thoughts are with the staff member, their family and colleagues at this time. The wider Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) team are actively supporting them through the investigation and follow up.

As the Prime Minister said this morning, our system is designed to manage situations like this, that’s why we have an ongoing testing regime for all staff.

MIQ staff are supporting the Canterbury District Health Board’s Community and Public Health Unit in their investigation into how this person may have contracted COVID-19. The person is employed to work solely at the Christchurch facility and does not work at any other site.

Following confirmation of this case, work is underway to review staffing logs, swipe card data and CCTV footage in order to map the person’s movements within the facility over recent days. 

The Community and Public Health Unit has conducted interviews to identify any close contacts among fellow staff members, alongside interviews with potential close contacts outside work. Any close contacts identified will be required to self-isolate and be tested.

The Sudima Christchurch Airport facility is a tightly controlled environment and as with all managed isolation and quarantine facilities, it operates with strict infection prevention control protocols at all times.

This case shows, once again, that Covid-19 is a tricky virus and despite robust infection and control measures, transmission can still occur.

Since its designation as a quarantine facility on 20 October all staff have been tested weekly for COVID-19. As a result of this positive case, and as an added precaution, all staff are being tested again over the next 24 hours.

We are committed to providing our staff with the information and tools they need to do their jobs safely, and will be working alongside Health officials to make sure staff and every person currently staying at the quarantine facility are supported at this time.

All our managed isolation and quarantine staff perform a crucially important role in ensuring the safety of all New Zealanders. Thanks to their incredible work on the frontline we have seen close to 70,000 people so far safely return to New Zealand and to their families since late March.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine