Covid-19 update: Two new cases, third escapee

There are two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation facilities and Health Minister Chris Hipkins says the man who escaped a Hamilton hotel last night  climbed a fire escape and evaded a police guard.

The Ministry of Health said in a press release it had been 70 days since the last case of Covid-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source.

The first case today is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand on 28 June from India.  He has been at the Sudima Auckland Airport facility since arrival. He tested negative on day 3 of his stay and has subsequently tested positive to an around day 12 test.

The second case is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand on 27 June from England. He has been in managed isolation at the Sudima Lake Rotorua. He tested positive on 9 July on day 12 of his stay. 

There were 23 active cases after three people recovered.

Hipkins said there were now 1192 cases of Covid 19 in New Zealand.

How police will track escapees

Hipkins said police were using bank transactions, CCTV footage and interviews with the public to track escapees.

Speaking about the third escapee from isolation facilities in a week, Hipkins said the man who left Hamilton isolation facility had tested negative in a further test today and was the only person in the store at the time.

The timely, and quick response to the situation in Hamilton, showed processes had improved. 

The second person to escape from isolation this week fled the Stamford Plaza in Auckland on Tuesday evening and went to Countdown on Victoria St in the central city.

After 70 minutes, the man returned to the Stamford. Countdown closed and cleaned the supermarket after being alerted to the issue.

Hipkins acknowledged that processes were not good enough in response to the previous escapee who entered a Countdown, and the supermarket was not adequately supported by the Ministry of Health.

He said he has asked health officials to tighten up communications between businesses and authorities where they have been in contacted with absconding arrivals.

What happened in the latest Hamilton absconding showed systems were being tightened.

He had been advised a police officer was at the Distinction Hotel when the person escaped by leaving through a fire exit and cutting through a fence.

"I don't accept people knowing and willingly breaking the law represented a flaw in the system. These are hotels, not prisons," said Hipkins after a third person fled isolation within days.

Hipkins said he was looking at different monitoring arrangements for those in managed isolation and quarantine facilities but was not prepared to make an announcement today.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb was investigating options.

How much is too much?

Hipkins said hotels which they were serving alcohol had to defer to host responsibility.

"It is important that people adhere to moderate consumption of alcohol in these facilities."

He said police were standing guard in Hamilton. The man had gone down a fire escape and cut through the temporary fencing.

Escapee's Hamilton booze run

Earlier today Air Commodore Darryn Webb confirmed that a man had cut through fence ties to escape the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton last night and bought booze from a liquor store on Te Rapa Road before returning about half an hour later.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said the government wanted to ensure students had the right...
Chris Hipkins. Photo: NZ Herald

A man who served him said he spent just two minutes in the store and bought a four pack of Leffe Blonde and a pinot noir.

He said the man paid by cash. Because of this every single note and coin in the register had to be cleaned this morning.

The man said it wasn't until this morning that police contacted the shop and asked to see footage from last night.

"We've wiped down all the counters with sanitiser and we trashed all the empty boxes he touched," said the man.

The man who escaped is due to appear in court later today.

Webb said that health officials had given advice to the store owner, which had not been given to the Countdown in Auckland that was visited by a man who escaped managed isolation at The Stamford Plaza on Tuesday night.

"As we have said repeatedly - actions such as these are completely unacceptable," said Webb.

"Returnees are given clear instructions and information about what their responsibilities are. Managed isolation is a critical part in our defence against Covid-19, and it is up to each and every person entering this country to play their part and abide by the law.

"We take any breach of the Covid-19 rules very seriously. Wilfully leaving our facilities will not be tolerated, and the appropriate action will be taken."

Third escape in a week

This is third person to escape from managed isolation within a week.

On Saturday, a woman jumped two fences at the Pullman Hotel shortly before 6.20pm and was located soon after a couple of blocks away at 8pm on Anzac Ave. She is appearing in the Auckland District Court on Monday.

On Tuesday night, a man sneaked through a gap in the fence at the Stamford Plaza and visited a Countdown Supermarket before returning 70 minutes later.

Yesterday Webb and Cabinet Minister Megan Woods said a review of the system had been done, and there would be a 24/7 police presence at every one of the quarantine and managed isolation facilities.

There will also be a lead security person at each facility.

"We expect to have these people on site in the next 24 to 48 hours," Webb said yesterday.

Both escapees from the Pullman and the Stamford had been from outdoor smoking areas, but a decision had been made not to close these. Instead they would be monitored all the time, and in circumstances where that was not possible, they would be closed.

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