Covid-19: At-home isolation ‘close to impossible’ for poorer communities

The strict criteria needed for Covid-19 cases to be able to isolate at home are almost impossible for people in low-socioeconomic groups to meet, a Pacific leader says. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced the start of the “interim” programme of home isolation on Tuesday. It means large numbers of people with Covid-19 can now isolate at home, rather than in dedicated facilities. As of Friday morning, 151 cases across 87 households were isolating at home.Simon Maude/StuffAuckland councillor Efeso Collins says for Pacific and Māori families, the at-home isolation criteria would be hard to meet. The scheme carries strict requirements, including living in a residence that allows people and their whānau to isolate away from others, having phone and internet access, and having their own car to travel to a testing centre. READ MORE:* Covid-19: Positive cases begin isolating at home as quarantine facilities fill up* Covid-19: At-home isolation could ‘create an equity issue’ for apartment dwellers* Covid-19 NZ: National proposes opening up travel at 85 per cent vaccinated, Labour say it would result in ‘Covid for Christmas’ Those who do not meet those requirements will be transferred to a quarantine facility, such as Jet Park Hotel, to recover. South Auckland councillor Efeso Collins said many people in poorer communities would not qualify. “’It’s a great approach, and it will be in high demand, but the challenge with these kinds of good ideas is that for some communities this doesn’t make any difference,” Collins said. “It will be close to impossible for families to self-isolate.” The model was introduced amid projections the virus may, in a worst-case scenario, infect 5200 people a week in Auckland and Northland alone – even if 90 per cent vaccination rates were reached. According to the Managed Isolation and Quarantine website, there are 4500 rooms available in quarantine facilities over an 18- to 20-day cycle. Collins said many Pasifika and Māori families, two communities heavily impacted by the virus, would still need to be transferred to facilities.RICKY WILSON/StuffThe vast majority of Covid-19 cases have been quarantined at facilities like Jet Park or the Holiday Inn, both near Auckland Airport. “We have the highest rates of homelessness and overcrowding, it’s impossible for our families to enjoy at-home isolation if it comes to it. “For the Māngere church cluster in particular, we had families that found isolation in MIQ a real challenge. Families had to be separated, children, homes were left half empty, it was a scary thing to go through.” Many Pacific and Māori families live in big households, depend on the local library for the internet, or on one family member for phone credit or internet data, he said. “Covid has highlighted the inequities for our communities, challenges we faced prior to Covid, and prejudices our ability to self-isolate.” Oscar Sims, the secretary of the City Centre Residents Group which represents 40,000 people living in Auckland’s CBD, has previously said at-home isolation would pose problems for people in higher-density living because of the need for better ventilation and security guards. “Those higher-end more expensive buildings have this kind of stuff already, but some of the bigger apartments with smaller units don’t have the same sort of facilities,” Sims said. “You’re creating an equity issue here.”

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