A vaccination centre operating alongside the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility is being closed down, political editor Jo Moir reports
The Crowne Plaza has been undergoing a review at the request of the Prime Minister, after it was revealed there were two public walkways in and around the managed isolation facility.
Newsroom first raised concerns in July about the public walkway next to the facility’s exercise area, which shares the same airspace as returnees in managed isolation.
In August, two days after the country was put into Alert Level 4 lockdown, Jacinda Ardern confirmed a Sydney returnee who had stayed at the Crowne Plaza on his arrival in the country was almost certainly the index case genomically linked to the Auckland outbreak.
The returnee arrived from New South Wales on August 7 and was moved to the Jet Park quarantine facility on August 9, after testing positive for the Delta variant.
It’s unclear how the virus leaked out into the community, and last week Ardern said all sorts of theories had been explored as part of the source investigation, including whether the public had been exposed while using the thoroughfare.
Health experts, including epidemiologist Michael Baker and microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, have criticised the Crowne Plaza for not being prepared for the Delta variant, given how quickly and easily it can transmit.
In the last three weeks, the facility has been closed for cleaning and a full review, described by Ardern as an assessment from a “Delta perspective”.
Work has also been done on the Perspex barriers next to the public thoroughfare inside the Atrium at the Crowne Plaza, to close up the gap between the Perspex barrier and the roof.
But Newsroom can now reveal a vaccination centre inside the Atrium is being closed.
Questions about the appropriateness of having a vaccination centre so close to managed isolation had been raised with the Director-General of Health, Doctor Ashley Bloomfield.
Last month he told Newsroom he trusted the health workers running the vaccination centre to have checked it was safe for the public coming in to receive their Pfizer doses.
While the hotel has been closed to returnees, the vaccination centre has continued operating.
But on Sunday night a spokesperson for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) told Newsroom the clinic would close on Tuesday and a new centre would open on Graham Street on Wednesday.
“The new site will have capacity to vaccinate 1000 people a day – about 400 more people a day than at the current site.”
About 600 people who were due to get vaccinated on Tuesday are in the process of being contacted and rebooked at the new Graham Street centre.
Newsroom asked whether the proximity of the vaccination centre to the Crowne Plaza had played any part in the decision to close it down.
A spokesperson for the NRHCC said the move will “also eliminate any concerns people may have about getting vaccinated at the existing centre in the Atrium, near the Crowne Plaza Hotel”.
“It’s important we continue to make the vaccination process as easy as we can for people and to have as many Kiwis vaccinated as possible,” the spokesperson said.