Stuff reporter Michael Hayward volunteered to take the Covid-19 test in Christchurch on Friday.
The Ministry of Health spent about $2.8 million quarantining 163 evacuees at a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) training facility in Whangaparāoa.
The centre was operational from February 5 to March 5 and was jointly run by the Ministry of Health, Police and the NZDF.
It was originally commissioned to help contain the 157 people who were evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in February and had to be quarantined at the site for 14 days. Six passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were also sent to the facility in late February as part of an attempt by the Government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said using the Whangaparāoa facility was the right thing to do at the time and when it was commissioned there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country.
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“New Zealand was in the ‘keep it out phase’ of our response to Covid-19 and the choice and use of this facility was in line with New Zealand’s precautionary approach.
“The decision recognised that these people came from areas which put them at high risk of having contracted Covid-19 and that the overall situation regarding the virus internationally was rapidly evolving.”
According to Ministry of Health Covid-19 response director Jane Kelley most of the funds were spent on the setting-up of the facilities, cleaning the site and hiring camper vans for “additional bed capacity”.
The NZDF training site was chosen because of its size and location and the fact it had its own medical facilities. The evacuees received daily medical checks while in isolation, but none of the people in the containment centre tested positive for coronavirus.
A live animal market in the Chinese city province region of Wuhan is suspected as the original source of the virus and in early February a special flight from the city was used to repatriate New Zealand citizens and permanent residents from the affected area.
The evacuees arrived at Auckland International Airport on February 5 and under the ministry’s guidelines had to spend 14 days in quarantine to cover the incubation period of the virus.
The eight New Zealanders who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were also sent to the Whangaparāoa centre after an outbreak of Covid-19 onboard the vessel saw over 500 passengers infected. The cruise ship was able to dock in the Japanese city of Yokohama and the Kiwi passengers were able to board a charter flight arranged by the Australian Government.
According to the ministry the facility hasn’t been used for quarantine purposes since March 5 and there are no plans to use it again at this stage.