Apartment residents in Covid self-isolation should seal gaps under doors with towels, avoid common area gardens, not share lifts or stairwells and get friends or family to deal with their rubbish, new Government guidelines say.
Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick, Labour list MP Helen White and the Body Corporate Chairs Group last week raised alarm about the risks of Covid-infected isolating in apartments.
So the Ministry of Health has now issued guidelines which Swarbrick, herself an apartment dweller, today welcomed.
“Thankfully and finally…it’s something body corporates have been clamouring and asking for so it’s useful,” Swarbrick said today.
On exterior doors, the guide says: “If you are self-isolating, sealing the gaps under doors, for example using a towel, may also decrease the leakage of air into shared spaces, like hallways and lift lobbies of the building”.
On gardens, it says these can stay open as a place for residents to exercise and get fresh air.
“Recreation and exercise restrictions do not apply to residential premises, however, the number of people in these areas should adhere to current visitor restrictions. It is recommended that these areas are not accessed at any time by any person undertaking self-isolation,” the guide says.
Those isolating due to possible Covid infections should stay away from others.
“Residents should be instructed to not use the lifts or stairwells with others if they are undergoing self-isolation,” the ministry said.
Gyms, swimming pools and saunas should stay open but have signage on health and safety precautions.
Ventilation in apartments is important but decreasing the number of times an exterior door is opened and keeping the amount of virus in the air to a minimum will decrease infection risk for others in the building.
On buildings without a centralised mechanical ventilation or HVAC system, the ministry said opening windows is an effective preventative measure.
Using exhaust fans in kitchens or bathrooms is also helpful.
Hygiene stations should be erected by rubbish chutes and waste areas. Residents should be encouraged to use hand sanitiser there and sanitise their hands after using waste facilities.
Self-isolating residents should get family members or friends to get their rubbish. They should double-bag it and put it outside their doors when no one is around.
All body corporate meetings and building management meetings should be held virtually and not in person.
A checklist asks bodies corporate to list number of floors, if they have contact details for residents and staff, how many people live in the building, what the vaccination status is of all contractors and staff, if there is adequate PPE gear, about ventilation systems and who to contact if there is a medical emergency.
For deliveries, these should be left outside doors and only collected when the delivery person has left and no one is passing by.
Residents should wear masks when they open doors.
The guidelines say balconies are probably low risk because the Virus will become rapidly diluted in the air. But balcony doors should not be opened at the same time, if possible.
Immune-suppressed people living in apartment buildings should have their privacy respected.
Bodies corporate cannot refuse permission for people to self-isolate in apartments, the ministry says.
Discrimination is unlawful.
Earlier this month, the Herald reported on residents of the South Auckland apartment complex where a Covid-infected man died being worried about being exposed and say they were never told he was self-isolating in the building.
The Ministry of Health confirmed a person with Covid-19 had been found dead while isolating at an Auckland address. The 40-year-old man was found deceased by a visiting family member.
The ministry said the cause of death is unknown and “may have been Covid-19 or some other cause”. However, they confirmed it was not vaccine-related.
•Ministry of Health apartment guidelines are here.
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