Guests stunned to find they are staying alongside Avatar crew direct from Covid-19 hot zone


An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at Wellington Airport. It had flown directly from Los Angeles. It is believed to be carrying Avatar film crews on board.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

An Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at Wellington Airport. It had flown directly from Los Angeles. It is believed to be carrying Avatar film crews on board.

Guests at a Wellington accommodation complex were stunned to discover they were sharing their hotel with a swarm of film-workers direct from a Covid-19 hotspot.

Management of the QT Hotel say the film workers, direct from Los Angeles, are completely segregated from other guests, but one of those guests told Stuff she walked directly through a crowd of them unaware they had just arrived from the United States, the country with the world’s highest number of Covid-19 cases.

Los Angeles is one of the worst-affected places in the US, with a tally of 53,746 confirmed cases and 2339 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Stuff on Sunday revealed that Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford had allowed 56 film workers past New Zealand’s closed borders. It is understood these people were working on the Avatar sequels and another yet-to-be-announced project.

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Their Air New Zealand Dreamliner charter plane, direct from Los Angeles, touched down in Wellington before dawn on Sunday and the film workers were taken to the QT Hotel to begin a two-week quarantine.

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The US remains the worst affected, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

QT Wellington general manager Ian Charlton would not comment on who was staying.

“But where we have people staying under 14 days of mandatory isolation, we have isolated them in the hotel side of QT Wellington, which is completely separate from our other guests that are staying in our QT apartments.

“As per Ministry of Health requirements, guests self-isolating are confined to their rooms with room service being left outside their doors.

“We would never put any of our guests, staff or the public staying or dining at QT at risk and, as outlined before, we are going beyond what is required by the Ministry of Heath guidelines related to Covid-19.”

Those staying in the adjoining apartment complex – which has access to a shared entrance and joins the hotel by a corridor- say they only heard of the new guests by reading Stuff.

The QT Museum Hotel on Wakefield St, where the quarantined workers are staying.

Stuff

The QT Museum Hotel on Wakefield St, where the quarantined workers are staying.

“We were given no heads-up whatsoever,” one said.

“It is just shocking, we weren’t told anything.”

As she was leaving, past the hotel concierge desk on Sunday, she passed through a big crowd of those checking in.

She was initially shocked by the lack of social distancing between the guests but it was only later she realised they were most likely the workers from Los Angeles, as they had turned up about the time the film crew were known to arrive and had American accents.

The QT Museum Apartments where guests stay, away from the quarantined workers from Los Angeles.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

The QT Museum Apartments where guests stay, away from the quarantined workers from Los Angeles.

Her husband, who was also there, has type 1 diabetes so was considered high-risk.

Another apartment guest said the hotel had not communicated anything about the new arrivals to existing guests.

“I’m furious – I was denied my chance to make my own decision [about whether to remain at QT],” he said.

He had already had a friend cancel a meeting with him for fears he would be infected.

The Ministry of Health told Stuff in a statement that the group was “tested for Covid-19 before leaving the United States and all tested negative”.

It said “the Ministry of Health and Regional Public Health are overseeing the implementation of the managed isolation and quarantine processes at the hotel”.

“Staff from both organisations were present at the arrival process on Sunday and are on site.”

When asked if others staying at the hotel should have been warned of the group’s visit, the ministry said: “No members of the public are staying in the hotel where managed isolation guests are staying.”

Movements of the group would be strictly monitored and the only activity allowed outside the hotel would be “occasional managed excursions under strict protocols, including appropriate supervision”.