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Still working out details: A plan's still not confirmed for Covid-positive visitors to Queenstown. PICTURE: GETTY

By CASS MARRETT

With less than a week until orders open for Aucklanders, plans still haven’t been confirmed
for self-isolation quarantine (SIQ) facilities in Queenstown.

Mountain Scene understands the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) has been trying to
secure at least two facilities in Queenstown for visitors who test positive for Covid and need to isolate, but no accommodation providers in the area have put their hand up for the job.

Scene also understands while a handful of spots are available for isolation in Queenstown, the current plan’s to transport Covid-positive visitors, who don’t need hospital-level care, to Dunedin to isolate at an accommodation provider there.

Scene’s sister paper Otago Daily Times reported yesterday the health board’s all but confirmed it’s leasing a property in Kaikorai Valley, Dunedin, for SIQ.

After repeated requests since Friday last week for an interview, SDHB couldn’t respond to Scene by deadline, and Ministry of Health didn’t respond at all to Scene’s media requests.

A meeting takes place today between health board CEO Chris Fleming, Queenstown council’s CEO Mike Theelen and mayor Jim Boult to discuss how visiting Covid cases will be handled in Queenstown.

Following that, there’ll be a separate meeting between Fleming, the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce, Destination Queenstown (DQ), SDHB’s acting quality and clinical governance executive director Hywel Lloyd, WellSouth CEO Andrew Swanson-Dobbs and the Queenstown Medical Centre.

Boult’s optimistic, but says he’s ‘‘disappointed’’ it’s taken till now to get a plan together.

‘‘We did signal our concerns Friday, not last week, the week before.’’

He says they’ll discuss transport and welfare logistics for cases travelling from Queenstown to Dunedin — if that’s the solution.

Self-iso plan has a ‘lot of moving parts’

‘‘I know that they are looking at a facility — I think they’ve actually secured one — our concern though is that if we get a number of cases in our district, how are those folk
going to get to Dunedin?

‘‘It’s an issue where there’s a lot of moving parts and, right now, we’re just not sure that a robust plan is in place.’’

Willing to help: Queenstown Chamber of Commerce CEO Ruth Stokes

Chamber CEO Ruth Stokes says the chamber and DQ will be lobby ing the health board to keep visitors isolating in Queenstown.

‘‘Planning for a Covid response is much better if the government, the council and business hold hands.

‘‘It’s one of the reasons we want to have a conversation with them is how we can help — obviously the chamber and DQ have very strong networks through our accommodation sector and we can facilitate conversations that potentially the DHB on their own can’t have,’’ Stokes says.

Additional Covid testing stations in Queenstown Lakes will also be up for discussion at both meetings.

Boult: ‘There are risks’

‘There are risks’: Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult

Meantime, when asked about Covid testing capacity, Queenstown Medical Centre boss Ashley Light assures ‘‘we have capacity’’.

‘‘We’ve got the ability to reallocate staff to what’s required if there’s a big spike,’’ he says.

There are currently two testing sites available in Queenstown — at the Queenstown and Wakatipu medical centres, and a vaccination facility near Pak’nSave Frankton is
‘‘working towards’’ doing testing, but doesn’t have a contract yet.

Light says he’s in ‘‘continued discussions’’ with WellSouth about ‘‘what the response might need to look like’’.

He’s not aware of any plans by WellSouth to implement further pop-up testing stations in the Whakatipu.

‘‘I know there are meetings going on this week … with Rhythm and Alps coming up and different events … there’s a bit more planning going on this week to get ready for it.’’

Boult says while he’s ‘‘pleased’’ about welcoming Aucklanders back next week, ‘‘there are risks associated with it’’.

‘‘I have a degree of confidence that [today’s] meeting will deliver a solution that we are satisfied with, there has been quite a lot of work been going on in the background,’’ he says.

‘‘[Queenstown Lakes] are now 99% double-vaxxed, so I think we’re as ready as we can be.’’

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz