By CASS MARRETT
Queenstown’s self-isolation quarantine (SIQ) debacle continues.
The resort’s back to square one when it comes to securing suitable SIQ facilities after a Southern District Health Board (SDHB) spokeswoman confirms to Mountain Scene they’re ‘‘still exploring further options’’.
At present, Queenstown’s only got two SIQ units available for visitors who test positive for Covid.
Once they’re full, visitors who need to self-isolate will need to be taken to a facility in Dunedin — SDHB boss Chris Fleming says there are national contracts in place with bus company Ritchies, which will handle their transport and welfare.
But at meetings in Queenstown last week, Fleming discussed more potential options for temporary, Queenstown-based SIQ spots over the holiday period with Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult and other resort officials, including Destination Queenstown and the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce.
Coming out with two leads, and quickly ruling one unsuitable, Fleming told Scene last Friday he’d looked at one facility offering five additional units with the ability to scale up, if needed.
But as the first visitors from Auckland, which remains a Covid hotspot, touched down in Queenstown after 120 days yesterday, the SDHB’s not made any further progress.
Boult tells Scene he got a call from Fleming on Tuesday ‘‘to tell me that the option that he was exploring was no longer available’’.
‘‘So I sent him two other possibilities, which had come across my radar … and I await feedback.’’
Fleming says the SDHB originally had five units in Dunedin, two in Queenstown and two in Invercargill.
‘‘We’ve … secured a sizeable facility in Dunedin that will give us another 22 units, and that will be our focal point for self-isolation facilities moving forward across 2022,’’ he says.
Of the 38,000 estimated visitors to Queenstown in the next couple of weeks, many of them will be holiday homeowners ‘‘in which case they’ll be able to self-isolate in their own place’’.
‘‘If people wish to self-isolate in accommodation that they can extend, then that will be acceptable as well,’’ Fleming says.
South Islanders who can get home ‘‘without an overnight stay’’ will be expected to return to their own homes, but ‘‘we won’t be able to put anyone back on a plane’’.
‘‘[For example], North Islanders — they will have to do isolation down here.’’
When asked if this would be at their own expense Fleming says, ‘‘I do not believe so, at this stage’’.
Boult says he still has a ‘‘bunch of questions’’ in his head but says he believes those logistics are as sorted as they can be.
‘‘I’m trusting them to do the job.
‘‘My prime concern at this stage is to ensure that there are confirmed isolation facilities in Queenstown.’’
This week Booking.com released data that showed Queenstown was the number one searched destination for Kiwis this Christmas.
The first flight from Auckland yesterday morning had only two seats to spare, which Boult says ‘‘shows the popularity’’ of the resort.
As for the scramble to secure more Queenstown SIQ facilities, Boult says SDHB is ‘‘committed to solving the issue’’.
‘‘I appreciate that it’s a frustrating exercise to be trying to do this at the last minute, which is why I would have rather we got onto this at an earlier date, but I think they’re doing
everything they can.’’