Two-week stay in dirty, bug-infested MIQ room 'unbelievable'

Levin man Roger Mitchell says his room in managed isolation at an Auckland hotel was dirty and the food was inedible.
DAVID UNWIN/Stuff
Levin man Roger Mitchell says his room in managed isolation at an Auckland hotel was dirty and the food was inedible.

A Levin man is stunned after a nightmare MIQ stay saw him forced to spend two weeks in a grubby, bug-infested hotel room – with a $3100 bill to cap it all off.

Roger Mitchell returned from England on June 23 and stayed at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre in Auckland for his two weeks of managed isolation.

He found dirt smeared on the telephone and what looked like weeks of dust build-up in the grates of the fan and on the back of the television.

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There were spiders in the shower, and a hole in the wall that ants trailed through and into the bathroom.

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Long blonde hair was through the carpet, and had to be picked off the bottom of his socks.

Mitchell said he asked for a vacuum, and two days later was told he could have a brush and shovel. But even that never made it up to his room.

“I think they just made the beds and nothing else.”

Ants on the bathroom counter in Roger Mitchell’s room at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre.
SUPPLIED
Ants on the bathroom counter in Roger Mitchell’s room at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre.

Though Mitchell’s initial complaint reaped little sympathy, after his concerns were raised by Stuff, the head of MIQ apologised for the shabby service and promised a review.

Mitchell sanitised the benches and the tables himself, with concerns over the Covid-19 status of the person before him.

He said with mystery cases popping up in MIQ hotels, a lack of cleaning could be a cause for concern.

Mitchell made a complaint with photographs to MIQ officials.

He said they dismissed the photographs, and said via email the rooms were professionally deep-cleaned between guests.

“They should have gone to Specsavers if they did,” Mitchell said. “I was pretty disappointed with the state of the room. I couldn’t bloody believe it.

“I’ve stayed in some cheap hotels, and I’ve never stayed in anything as rough as that before. I thought it was a bit bloody mickey mouse.”

Mitchell left for England in November last year, for an “unavoidable family-friend situation”, and was vaccinated in England.

Roger Mitchell returned to his Levin home after his stay at managed isolation in Auckland.
DAVID UNWIN/Stuff
Roger Mitchell returned to his Levin home after his stay at managed isolation in Auckland.

He was originally from the UK, but settled in New Zealand 50 years ago. He had citizenship and was a ratepayer.

It took four months of trying before he successfully booked an MIQ room.

He said the food was awful and although he got to pick from two choices, it was mostly inedible. Meals arrived cold, and there was no microwave or oven to reheat the food.

There were four meals a day, but Mitchell only ate four in total through his two-week stay. He ordered food from a local supermarket to his hotel room.

The grates of the fan in Roger Mitchell's room at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre in Auckland.
SUPPLIED
The grates of the fan in Roger Mitchell's room at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre in Auckland.

He was billed $3100 for the experience.

“I didn’t know I was getting a bill. That wasn’t mentioned.”

New Zealand citizens and residents who travelled abroad and returned after 12.01am on August 11 last year were expected to front the costs of managed isolation.

Travellers may also have to pay if returning after August 11 but intending to stay for a period of fewer than 180 days. ​​​​​​

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Mitchell has taken his complaint about the state of the room and the bill to the Ombudsman.

“I never said I won’t pay it, but I have concerns.”

Joint head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine brigadier Rose King said workers at its facilities did their best to ensure people’s needs were met.

“However, sometimes things don’t go perfectly – as in this instance – and we apologise for that.”

She said the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre had been operating as a managed isolation facility since May 2020 and had received extremely positive feedback to date.

Dirt on the phone at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Room, a managed isolation facility.
SUPPLIED
Dirt on the phone at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Room, a managed isolation facility.

“On this occasion, their usual high standard of cleaning was not met. They are conducting a review of their processes to ensure the standard they are proud of is maintained.”

King said an apology had been made to Mitchell.

A spokeswoman confirmed the Chief Ombudsman had received a complaint, but was unable to provide further detail.

University of Otago professor of Public Health Michael Baker said there was a low risk of catching Covid-19 from dirt on surfaces.

But staying in a dirty hotel room was unpleasant and would be psychologically difficult when staying in managed isolation for two weeks.

Professor Michael Baker says moving Auckland to level 3 would make it harder to reduce daily case numbers of Covid-19.
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Professor Michael Baker says moving Auckland to level 3 would make it harder to reduce daily case numbers of Covid-19.

He said early during the pandemic there was a focus on surfaces and doorhandles, and making sure people sanitised like their life depended on it. But it wasn’t that important.

“Covid-19 is transmitted through the air, droplets and aerosols.”

He said handwashing and basic hygiene were important in general and stopped the spread of other viruses.

But Covid-19 was contracted through respiratory passages, and from one person to another.

Making sure indoor spaces were well ventilated, not crowded, and that people were wearing masks was more important.