Covid case faces jail or fine after sneaking out to supermarket

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 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 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.

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."

After the man's positive test this morning the supermarket was closed for a further "deep clean".

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday that an announcement about the stand-off with...A reporter outside the Victoria St West Countdown said there was now security outside. He said dozens of people were being turned away, but others will still able to access the Warehouse Stationary store upstairs.

Webb said the systems at the quarantine or managed isolation facilities were being reviewed, including smoking policies.

Public health officials are conducting interviews to assess the risk, but currently it is deemed low.

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.

Webb said resources were not inexhaustible and smoking policies were being reviewed. Observation smoking areas was something that could be looked at, he said.

Tests are being provided for Countdown supermarket staff.

Hipkins said he understood this would cause anxiety, and the first line of defence is washing hands, coughing in your elbow, not touching your face and staying at home if sick.

Anyone with health concerns should contact Healthline or their GP. He said people who needed to be tested will be tested.

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

There are fences and security arrangements at these facilities, he said, but people needed to "play by the rules".

Hipkins said the facilities were not "maximum security prisons", and "we expect them to follow the rules".

Policies like going out for cigarettes are being reviewed."

"It is completely unacceptable" for two people to have escaped facilities, and Hipkins said these were selfish acts that jeopardised the efforts of the rest of the country.

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

Webb said resources were not inexhaustible and that smoking policies were being reviewed. Observation smoking areas was something that could be looked at, he said.

Security at quarantine

"Climbing over or finding a small gap in a facility and to run off is not the sort of behaviour we are expecting," Webb said.

The security guard does not have the power to police and apprehend, but the guard can communicate and observe, he said.

But the guard cannot physically restrain someone, he said.

"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."

He wouldn't be drawn on whether it was an oversight to let someone into the smoking area while fencing was being replaced.

He said there was "nothing stopping us" from putting police on site at the moment.

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.

He said it seemed like a spur of the moment decision to leave.

Webb didn't know what the man so urgently needed from the supermarket.

He 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.

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

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.

 

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