A man in his 50s absconded from a New Zealand coronavirus quarantine facility, cutting through a fence to visit a liquor store, officials revealed on Friday.
Officials said the man, who arrived from Sydney, Australia on July 1, cut through ties in a six-foot fence to break out of a temporary managed isolation facility in the Distinction Hotel, Hamilton, on New Zealand’s North Island.
All people entering New Zealand must stay in managed isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days and test negative for coronavirus before they are allowed to move around freely, but several arrivals to the country have so far absconded from these facilities.
In a statement released on Friday, Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of managed isolation and quarantine, said the man, who had so far tested negative twice for coronavirus, was in police custody and due to appear in court later in the day.
“Initial information suggests an individual cut through fence ties at the 1.8-metre fence to break out of the facility, and returned to the facility sometime after that.
“It is believed the individual was off the premises for around half an hour, between approximately 6:30pm and 7pm,” he said.
Webb said local health authorities and police were communicating with local businesses to identify anyone who came into contact with the man.
“We have talked to one liquor store on Te Rapa Road where we believe the individual visited, and it has cleaned its premises as a result of our inquiries. Police ensured no one entered the store this morning until health officials confirmed it was safe to do so,” he said.
The escape comes just days after several other quarantined arrivals to New Zealand evaded their mandatory isolation.
On Wednesday, a 32-year-old man “briefly absconded” from a managed isolation facility in Auckland, Webb said in a separate statement.
The man, who later tested positive for Covid-19, escaped from the facility through a section of fencing and visited a supermarket before returning to the building. Webb said the man will be summonsed to appear in court and at a later date charged under section 26(1) of the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.
On Sunday, a 43-year-old woman escaped from a managed isolation facility in Auckland on foot, before being found a couple of blocks away a short while later.
Webb noted: “The vast majority of returnees take their responsibilities seriously and abide by the law while in managed isolation.”
According to the New Zealand government, 27,723 people have gone through managed isolation since March 26.
In April, the country said it had “eliminated” the virus as case numbers stayed in single figures, and in June, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that almost all domestic coronavirus restrictions would be lifted.
New Zealand has seen several cases since.
On Friday, Health Minister Chris Hipkins told a press briefing that there were two new cases of coronavirus in the country, both in managed isolation facilities.
“It’s been 70 days since the last case of Covid-19 that was acquired locally from an unknown source in the community,” he said, adding that this brings New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases to 1,192, with 23 active cases.