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Concerns as Covid-19 cases exercising in the underground parking lot of Grand Mercure Wellington

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Wellington’s Covid-19 case is allowed to exercise in the underground car park, raising concerns that MIQ workers are at unnecessary risk.

Photo: RNZ

All cases of the Delta variant identified by Wellington are admitted to the Grand Mercure Hotel, except for at least one in the hospital.

Aerosol chemists say that the enclosed air in underground parking increases the likelihood of transmission, but public health experts say the hotel does not appear to be suitable for operating as a quarantine facility.

Brigadier General Rose King, co-head of controlled quarantine and quarantine, said that people staying at Grand Mercure Wellington could continue to use the underground parking lot, which is the hotel’s “fresh air” area.

This is despite a positive Covid-19 test and an increased infection rate for the Delta variant.

“Controlled sequestration or quarantine is a difficult time affecting people who pass through it in different ways,” said King.

“Access to fresh air supports their well-being.

“Infection prevention and control protocols are implemented in areas of fresh air, returnees always wear the provided medical face mask, disinfect their hands before and after entering the exercise area, and from others 2 You need to keep a physical distance of meters. “”

Joel Lindelaub

Dr. Joel Lindelaub.
Photo: Courtesy of the University of Auckland

Dr. Joel Lindelaub, an aerosol chemist at the University of Auckland, said he was sympathetic to the people being quarantined in Wellington.

However, he said these measures were not always sufficient to prevent the spread of Covid-19, especially Delta variants.

“These are definitely useful, but they are not 100 percent perfect, as we have seen in past types of aerosol propagation at MIQ facilities,” Linderaub said.

“If you take these corridors and confined spaces, which are known to have no maximum airflow, to places where ventilation is not regulated, how many air changes occur per hour in these places. I don’t know if there is, there is a risk of aerosol propagation. “

RNZ understands that to get to the underground car park, people need to leave the room and be guided by MIQ staff, usually Wehrmacht soldiers, to the elevator to get off the car park.

Brigadier General King said air filtration units were installed in corridors and elevators, and each room occupied by positive cases was equipped with HEPA-only filters.

Linderaub said it was a good standard, but using the underground car park for exercise was still very dangerous.

“It can’t even pass the odor test,” he said.

“If you are in some of these closed parking lots, you can smell the smoke of the remaining cars from people passing by.

“Whenever you are in that environment, parking is far more risky than a real outdoor environment that takes in fresh air, as it is known that there is not enough ventilation to allow fresh air to flow there. Will be higher. Environment. “

Nick Wilson, a public health expert at the University of Otago.

Professor Nick Wilson.
Photo: University of Otago

Professor Nick Wilson, a public health expert at the University of Otago, said he didn’t want to be near the underground car park during the positive cases.

“I don’t think it’s fair for MIQ workers to be involved in the process because masks are good but not perfect, so MIQ workers are unnecessarily at risk. “

Restoration work is ongoing

Although filters have been installed in occupied rooms and common areas, Grand Mercure is still working on ventilation restorations in some of the hotels that are still in use.

Brigadier General King said the second phase of work would soon begin and be completed earlier this month, on the other side of the hotel, which is currently unused.

Operations include cleaning ventilation ducts, replacing failed exhaust fans, and replacing window seals.

Wilson said Grand Mercure should not be used as it is not suitable for the purpose.

“This sounds like a problem, which means the repair work should have been done,” Wilson said.

“If people who are known to be positive and infectious are exercising in an underground car park, which is probably very poorly ventilated, it sounds very problematic. Therefore, this is very unsatisfactory. It looks like a situation. “

According to Wilson, people staying at Grand Mercure need to provide exercise bikes and other exercise equipment for use in the room rather than entering and exiting the underground car park.

Brigadier General King said the MIQ Technical Advisory Group calculated that the risk of ventilation problems in the facility was low.

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