Permanent police presence at isolation facilities

People escaping managed isolation are committing a "reckless act" of selfishness, says the minister in charge of the facilities.

"We will come down on them with the full weight of the law. They are putting New Zealanders at risk. Frankly, they don't deserve to join the team of five million," Minister Megan Woods said.

There will be a permanent police presence at every facility 24/7, Woods said.

Asked about people at facilities being abused by the public during their outdoor walks, Woods said returnees were dealing with stressful situations.

"They deserve our love and our support, but the public has a right to expect everyone in those facilities are following the rules, and the vast majority are doing that."

Escapee's tour of central Auckland

On Tuesday, a 32-year-old man sneaked away from The Stamford Plaza in the evening, despite being seen by a security guard who thought he was a contract worker.

He returned to the hotel 70 minutes later after buying grooming supplies from a nearby Countdown supermarket, which has re-opened after being cleaned.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb said the man left the Stamford Plaza at 6.51pm on Tuesday via the fence section at the smoking area, walked indirectly to Countdown where he arrived at 7.02pm, spent 20 minutes at the supermarket, and then took a phone call for 22 minutes.

The call ended at 7.42pm, and the man then took an indirect route back to hotel, arriving at 7.58pm.

He walked along Albert St, Customs St East, Queen St and Victoria St West.

Megan Woods was grilled on the issue this morning. Photo: Getty Images
Megan Woods. Photo: Getty Images
Woods said Countdown had cleaned areas on Tuesday night in the supermarket where the man had been, and had decided to close for a period yesterday following advice, but not instruction, from health officials.

Woods said the reason Countdown had reopened on Wednesday was a question for Countdown, but health officials had been in touch from just after 7am on Wednesday morning.

Police guarding hotels

Webb said a uniformed police officer would now be on-site at each facility 24/7, which would help ensure compliance.

There were 5648 people in quarantine and managed isolation facilities at the moment, he said.

He said 99.97 percent of people who had been through quarantine and managed isolation facilities since lockdown had followed the rules.

"Our job is to make sure the law is backed up by as many preventative measures as practicable."

Contracted guards were on site and there were also dedicated police staff.

As well as the police presence, 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."

Woods said there would be an opportunity cost of the extra police staff at the quarantine and managed isolation facilities, just as there was for the nursing staff who worked at the facilities.

No smoking ban at isolation hotels

The man who escaped from his hotel in Auckland on Tuesday absconded through a smoking area.

Webb said forcing people to quit smoking would lead to stress and potentially aggressive behaviour.

"Banning smoking in these facilities would not be appropriate at this stage."

But the smoking areas will be monitored 24 hours a day, and if that couldn't occur, for example for a shift change, the areas will be closed.

Compassionate leave from isolation

Early releases in exceptional circumstances were still being looked at, she said.

Woods said leave for people who cannot stay in managed isolation for medical reasons remained, but all other reasons for early leave remain suspended.

A new team at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was being put together to look specifically at early leave applications.



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