Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

Kiwi basketball star Tom Abercrombie has defended his family’s exemption to serve the remainder of their managed isolation stint in their multi-million dollar home, after complaining about conditions in their initial facility.
Monique-Raquel Abercrombie, who is married to the top Breakers player and New Zealand international, complained about conditions at the isolation hotel near Auckland Airport where she and her children were staying.
Posting her complaint on social media which tagged the account of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Abercrombie said she has two autistic children, while suggesting she had applied for a medical exemption, which was still being processed.
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Monique Abercrombie, left, with husband Thomas Abercrombie.
Abercrombie was adamant his family had followed the right course of action in an extremely difficult situation.
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He told Stuff: That decision had nothing to do with public complaints, or my status.
In hindsight it probably wasnt the right way to go about it, saying things on social media but the most important thing is we applied for this through all the appropriate channels, provided all the evidence that we had to for the situation, and our application was granted based on that and nothing else.
When asked about an exemption for the Abercrombie family, the Ministry of Health told Stuff this was not a health-related decision.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman later clarified this meant the decision was not made by the ministry or other public health officials from Auckland DHB, not that it was not related to health.
Abercrombie said the decision was a medical one, adding: We were very grateful they were able to get the exemption and do their isolation at home, which was safer for them and everyone else I think.
He added: Ive learnt over here that everyone is going through different things, no ones situation is easy, theyre all different, but were all dealing with things and have to compartmentalise different issues in our lives and try to focus on basketball. Thats what Im trying to do.
Professor Nick Wilson says the practice leaves a lot to be desired.
After complaining about the cleanliness of the facility, Monique-Raquel Abercrombie was allowed to serve the remainder of her mandatory 14-day isolation period in the familys $3 million home in an exclusive part of Auckland’s North Shore.
Neighbours, who did not want to be identified, said security guards were stationed outside the home.
A notice was posted on the gate of the property, with a Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) letterhead, warning people not to cross the boundaries of the property and saying all deliveries must be contactless.
Residents said they were given information by health officials about their neighbours isolating.
Because it said the decision wasnt medical, the Ministry of Health directed Stuff enquiries to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) the Government agency which oversees MIQ facilities.
But in a lengthy written statement, MBIE refused to explain exactly why the exemption was granted.
Without a privacy waiver from the family we cannot comment on the specifics of this case, an MBIE spokesman said.
Monique-Raquel Abercrombie declined comment when approached by Stuff.
However, MBIE did acknowledge exemptions from MIQ facilities are rare there have been just 11 since July 14, 2020.
Six exemption applications have been approved for self-isolation at an individuals private home, i.e. not spending 14 days managed isolation at a managed isolation facility, the statement said.
Of these, five were approved under the medical needs category, where the persons needs could not be accommodated in the managed isolation facility, and one application was approved under the exceptional circumstances category.
There have also been five exemption applications approved to isolate at home after the applicant(s) entered MIQ for at least three days. This may have been because all the information required to approve their application wasnt received prior to the returnees arrival in New Zealand.
Four were granted under the exceptional circumstances category and one under the medical needs category.
A returnee speaks to a member of the Navy at the Naumi hotel near Auckland Airport, where Monique Abercrombie stayed with her children.
For the few exempt from serving isolation in an MIQ facility, they are also exempt from having to pay any additional costs it may take to make their home, or other location, safe and secure.
There are no charges for any additional measures, such as security, that are needed to be put in place for those who are granted exemptions from staying in managed isolation.
For a returnee to be allowed to serve isolation in their home, the bar is set extremely high, MBIE said.
The threshold for granting an exemption for any category is extremely high and exemptions are rare.
This is because as a key factor in assessing any application is the public health risk of transmitting Covid-19 to the community.
In the Abercrombie case, strict health and security measures were placed on the property, reflecting the level of risk home isolation potentially poses to the community compared to a managed isolation facility.
If a returnee were to isolate at home, a compliance plan would need to be signed. Police would be required to make checks to confirm travellers are complying with their self-isolation instructions, daily health checks and day 0/1 (if required), 3 and 12 testing would also be put in place.
Because the purpose of managed isolation is to keep our communities safe from Covid-19, and given the public health risk, there is an extremely high threshold for approving applications. The majority of applications are declined. Applications for an exemption from staying in managed isolation should be made well in advance of a returnees arrival in New Zealand.
All applications are assessed on a case by case basis.
An earlier version of this story did not name the family.