Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Apartment chiefs worry about home isolation in units, seek Govt help

Will the air conditioning handle it? Are adjacent balconies a threat? Should the returnees be allowed into the gym or communal gardens? How will health workers get in to test them? How are the rights of the returnee upheld?

Those are some of the many questions and concerns apartment chiefs have about rules around Covid home isolation.

The Body Corporate Chairs Group -representing body corporate chair people, committees and others interested in promoting good governance – has produced a document outlining many of the issues for unit MIQ.

From Monday, people have been able to isolate at home for three days after seven days in managed isolation, the group noted. Those people must remain at home in isolation until they get a negative test.

That means they will invariably be in Auckland buildings, potentially in close quarters with other residents, staff, visitors, workers, etc.

“Is the isolation of such people in an apartment building appropriate? The answer is, it depends,” the group said.

People with Covid and those who have been in contact with an infected person might be isolating in apartments.

The first question apartment chiefs, owners and dwellers should ask is whether the development is fit for purpose for Covid home isolation.

“By fit for purpose, we mean is it an apartment building where people can isolate
themselves in safety for both themselves and others in the development’s community.

“The Government indicated in its business travel project that those returning from overseas could isolate at home in a standalone property thereby implying that they did not believe that apartment buildings were necessarily appropriate to provide the level of safe isolation for the individual or the community. Yet, already there have been examples of random people being placed in apartment buildings or multiple flats and two deaths,” the group said.

Questions include:

• Can the isolating person enter a building and cross over the common property
with safety?

• Does the unit in the apartment building have its own airflow system or is it part of the common airflow system throughout the building?

• Is the door of the apartment opposite another apartment in a closed corridor?

• Is there a balcony on the apartment adjacent to others?

• Is there someone to service the isolated person in safety, like a building manager?

• Is there a mask mandate throughout the building?

• Are there multiple lifts or stairwells so that those accessing the apartment where the isolated person is living can do so safely?

• Are there other immune-suppressed people living in the apartment building?

• Are there common recreational areas such as gardens, courtyards, gyms, pools and saunas which the isolating person should not access?

Those isolating will need food, medication, testing and rubbish removal services. Some might be in the apartment for many days.

“The question then must be asked how they can be serviced and accessed and by whom. Your building manager is either employee or a contractor. He or she may refuse to help, based on health and safety. The committee could not insist that the building manager assists in servicing the isolating person,” the group says.

The Government might give some guidance for apartment isolation.

The group said it was talking to local Labour MP Helen White and had written to the Minister for Covid Response Chris Hipkins.

But it was up to individuals to look at their own blocks and assess them under the guidance the group had given.

On November 4, the Herald reported residents of the South Auckland apartment complex where a Covid-infected man died said they were worried about being exposed and were never told he was self-isolating in the building.

The Ministry of Health confirmed a person with Covid-19 had been found dead while isolating at an Auckland address. The person – confirmed by the ministry as a 40-year-old man – was found deceased by a visiting family member.

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