The 320km round-trip to break into isolation: Man arrested

Air Commodore Darryn Webb. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
Air Commodore Darryn Webb. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
A Whangārei man allegedly forced his way through a fence into a Covid-19 managed facility and had a conversation with a person returned from overseas and in isolation.

The security breach happened in Auckland about 12.20pm on Friday and the 33-year-old man managed to return to Whangārei, 158km away, where he was arrested shortly after 10am on Saturday.

He is facing charges of failing to comply with a Covid-19 order and unlawfully being in an enclosed area. The man will appear in the Auckland District Court today.

Neither police nor the All-of-Government response to Covid-19 were prepared to name the isolation facility in question.

Head of managed isolation and quarantine Air Commodore Darryn Webb confirmed the man would be isolated as a precaution while the person he briefly spoke to at the facility tested negative.

"The returnee involved tested negative at their day three test and health officials have determined the contact to be low risk. However, the member of the public who was arrested will be isolated as a precaution while the returnee's second test results are awaited."

The second test was due to take place yesterday.

There have been several breaches by returnees from managed isolation since the Government began requiring all returning citizens and residents to spend 14 days in isolation, to protect the country from Covid-19, which is still spreading rapidly overseas.

It's understood the latest breach was the first where a member of the public was able to speak face-to-face with someone in managed isolation.

Webb said the Whangārei man breached security by allegedly forcing his way through the outer 1.8m fence and having brief contact with a returnee who was in the exercise area of the facility.

"Police on site witnessed the incident and took immediate action to intervene, however, the member of the public fled the scene in a vehicle."

Webb said security measures in place meant the incident was detected by police straight away and officers commenced an immediate investigation.

"The actions of those involved in this incident are incredibly irresponsible, and while health officials have advised the public health risk is low, the fact someone has chosen to put themselves and therefore others at potential risk in this way is extremely disappointing.

"There is absolutely no room for complacency for those inside or outside of our managed isolation and quarantine facilities while Covid-19 remains contained at our border, and we urge every person in managed isolation to play their part in protecting New Zealand.

"As with any breach of security, an assessment of the incident is under way and we will consider whether any additional measures are required."

Webb said there would be no further comment as the matter was before the court.

A fortnight ago, an adult and four children in managed isolation escaped from the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton and prior to that, Queenstown man Martin James McVicar allegedly cut through fence ties in the same facility and walked 10 minutes to buy beer and wine.

The Government is using 31 hotels in Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch for Covid-19 quarantine and managed isolation.

They range from a three-star backpacker-style accommodation to a five-star luxury hotel on Auckland's waterfront.

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