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Public health professor wants Ōhakea set up as quarantine base

Ōhakea air base could provide the best defence against Covid-19 entering New Zealand, says Otago University public health professor Nick Wilson.

If the government cannot stop receiving international arrivals at all for three months,  everyone entering New Zealand should fly directly to Ōhakea, near Palmerston North.

Wilson said camper vans and mobile homes could be used as accommodation while purpose-built quarantine facilities were constructed.

Hotels in Auckland and other centres were not fit for the job, he said.

The shared spaces people moved through in hotels, including the lifts and exercise areas, provided potential for transmission of the virus.

At Ōhakea, people in quarantine would be well separated from the community and city attractions.

The facility would have high security, “rather than jacked-up security for hotels”.

The military personnel who staffed it would be professional and disciplined, and should stay on base, producing a negative test result for Covid-19 before going out into the community.

Wilson said it seemed crazy to continue exposing Auckland, the most important driver of the economy, to the risk of repeated border mistakes that put it into lockdown.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has also raised the possibility of using defence bases at Waiouru, Ōhakea and Burnham as part of his proposed border protection force.

All a spokesperson for Managed Isolation and Quarantine was prepared to say was: “There are currently no plans to establish managed isolation or quarantine facilities at any [Defence Force] camps or bases.”

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