Locals have contacted BCN news to express their concerns about the government’s Covid MIQ protocols for the cyclone season and the hospitalisation of MIQ passengers.
As the island heads into the second cyclone season since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, questions are being asked as to whether the government’s Covid response protocols during cyclone season are robust enough.
According to the current protocols and confirmed by the Chief of Police Tim Wilson, if a cyclone is about to hit Niue, all the passengers in MIQ at Homofiti will be relocated to the Lialagi facility at Lakepa. The picture is taken from one of the ten units at Homofiti, showing how close the property is to the sea.
The Chief was on ‘News of the Week’ radio programme last Friday and was asked, why not re-locate the government’s MIQ facility to Lialagi now for the duration of the cyclone season and not wait until there is a cyclone.
Tim Wilson said that the Lialagi facility is not appropriate for long-term stay.
“The big issue is that Lialagi is not set up for the number of people we have for long term. So Lialagi has a couple of rooms and then the big halls. In order to take people there to stay for a couple of weeks, there will be no privacy. There will be issues with people not having their personal space which can lead to mental health difficulties”.
This is why the government has decided to only use Lialagi if there is definitely a cyclone heading for Niue and there is a need to relocate from the government’s preferred MIQ facility, the Matavai apartments at Homofiti.
The Police department and the Disaster management office (NDMO) are the leading agencies during a cyclone alert and according to the Chief of Police, while Lialagi is safest because it is farther away from the sea, Homofit is also still quite protected.
“Where Homofiti is, it’s actually pretty protected. Rarely do we have massive cyclone damage there. So if there is a cyclone, then we can assess the situation and have them relocated to Lialagi for a few days and then move them back.”
Concerns have been raised as to the risk of exposing these frontliners to those in MIQ if they have to relocate them during a cyclone warning.
There are also concerns as to whether the Police and NDMO will be able to cope with handling the relocation of the MIQ passengers on top of preparing for the onset of a cyclone.
However, the Chief says that his team has had to deal with this situation during the last cyclone season, and there was no need to relocate MIQ from Homofiti then.
According to the Niue Met Office, one or two cyclones are predicted for the island this cyclone season, which started this month until the end of April next year.
Meanwhile, the locals are also concerned at the relocation of MIQ passengers who need medical care and are moved to the Aged Care Unit at the Niuefoou hospital.
An elderly passenger was relocated last week from MIQ to a dedicated room at the Aged Care Unit because of underlying health conditions. The passenger had tested negative on day three after arrival on Monday last week.
This has raised issues with some locals, who say that some of these MIQ Covid protocols are too casual and create unnecessary risk.
One local who wish to remain anonymous said that they are very concerned because the staff who are caring for this MIQ patient are also caring for the other patients at the hospital.
Another concerned local says that they feel for the elderly folks at the Aged Care Unit because they are the most vulnerable citizens as well to Covid and the MIQ passengers can be relocated to their facility.
However, Director-General of Social Services and Health, Gaylene Tasmania told BCN news that the patient from MIQ was transferred to the Aged Care unit because they had tested negative.
If there is a positive case at MIQ, they will be treated at MIQ and isolated there. Only extremely ill MIQ patients will be moved to the Niuefoou hospital.
The contractors are still building the Covid isolation unit which is located in between the Aged Care Unit and the Children’s Ward at the Niuefoou hospital.
These concerns have been raised with the Premier’s office seeking an interview with either the Premier or the Minister of Health.