Covid case faces jail or fine after sneaking out

A man with Covid-19 left managed isolation in Auckland for more than an hour and went to a supermarket in the central city.

The man, New Zealand's latest Covid case, arrived in New Zealand from New Delhi, India on July 3.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says the man left his managed isolation facility at the Stamford Tower and went to Countdown on Victoria St West last night.

The man, who is in his 30s, left through a smoking area where the fences were being replaced, and people went looking for him but he wasn't able to be found, Hipkins said.

He will be charged and faces up to a six-month jail sentence or a $4000 fine.

Hipkins said the advice so far was that the risk was low, and the man was asymptomatic even though he has tested positive for Covid-19.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb said the man "knowingly snuck through" a temporary fence that was being replaced.

Webb said police were called immediately and began searching for the man.

"Inquiries have established the man went to Countdown on Victoria St West on foot and purchased items at a self-service checkout, before returning to the hotel around 8pm.

"Once the man's movements were established, Police visited the supermarket and ensured the self-service checkout and the areas entered by the man were cleaned."

The man didn't come into close contact in the time he was away from the facility.

There was a security guard where the man had been and the guard was watching contracted staff in the area, who were working on the fence at night time, Webb said.

TESTS FOR COUNTDOWN STAFF

Countdown's general manager for health and safety, Kiri Hannifin, said the team was "incredibly disappointed that this has happened given the potential for an incident like this to put our team and customers at risk".

Victoria St West Countdown was closed for cleaning from this morning after the man tested positive and at this stage will reopen at 7am tomorrow.

"We have asked all of our team that were working last night, including the nightfill team, to self-isolate as a precautionary measure," Hannifin said.

 

"They will get tested over the next few days and we are offering them any and all support they need."

A reporter outside the Countdown said there was now security outside. He said dozens of people were being turned away, but others will still able to get to Warehouse Stationery store upstairs.

PLAY BY THE RULES: HEALTH MINISTER

The Health Minister said it is completely unacceptable" for two people to have escaped isolation facilities and these were selfish acts that jeopardised the efforts of the rest of the country.

Chris Hipkins said all systems were being reviewed, but individuals in these facilities were obliged to follow the rules.

The facilities, which have security arrangements, were not "maximum security prisons", and "we expect them to follow the rules".

"Policies like going out for cigarettes are being reviewed."

Webb said a security guard does not have the power to police and apprehend, but  can communicate and observe. But the guard cannot physically restrain someone.

"Climbing over or finding a small gap in a facility and to run off is not the sort of behaviour we are expecting. He broke the law in leaving the facility."

The policing of the system will be discussed, including whether police should be on site all the time, he said.

The man was gone for 70 minutes, and Webb said CCTV was being looked at for clues on the man's movements.

The security guard thought the man might be a fencing contractor, Webb said. "It was at night time, and an individual was obviously mistaken about whether he saw a contractor."

Defence Force staff, private security staff, aviation security staff and hotel staff were all being used at the moment and had been so far successful.

Webb said there was no risk to residents staying at the Stamford Tower, as mitigation measures are in place to keep them separated from people returning from overseas.

"We took immediate measures to ensure that gap was closed."

The fencing work was part of installing 1.82m-high fences at all managed isolation facilities.

SHOPPERS TURNED AWAY

Hungry Aucklanders are being turned away from the supermarket today.

The store is closed for cleaning and a security guard standing in the doorway turning people away.

The security guard said he had been told it would be closed for "at least a couple of hours" but wasn't sure when it would reopen.

Dozens of people have been turned away from the supermarket, where the lights are on but its roller doors are down, and told to visit other grocery stores nearby. Most people seem unaware of the recent news the latest Covid-19 case visited the story yesterday.

There were 2131 tests conducted yesterday.

Hipkins wouldn't be drawn on details of the leaked privacy details of Covid-19 patients, saying that he awaited the outcome of the Heron inquiry, which would also look at who had the information and why they had that information.

There is no community transmission. It has been 68 days since the last case of community transmission.

Comments

This behaviour needs much bigger consequences. As well as the small fine and jail sentence, they should have to pay for all associated costs to those impacted, such as to the supermarket and its employees, in this case. They should also have to pay for the cost of their quarantine. And, they should have to pay for all medical and other costs if they infect someone, and if that person dies, they should be charged with murder.

"Webb said resources were not inexhaustible ..."

Every member of the NZ Army is busy?

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