The 32-year-old man – who had been away for 70 minutes and visited a busy downtown supermarket – tested positive for Covid-19. He has since been charged under new public health legislation. He faces a heavy fine or six months in prison.Government Minister Megan Woods said on Thursday “the absconded are a new phenomenon” and that their neglect endangers the health of the whole country. New Zealand has indeed eliminated the virus after a six-week lockout, with tight and continuous border checks.
Woods said the escapees “did not deserve to be on the 5 million team.” Nearly 28,000 people have passed through controlled segregation in Auckland, but the numbers are now starting to slow after Air New Zealand has agreed to manage the number of international arrivals.
Newcomers to the country – the majority of whom are New Zealand citizens – have reported growing hostility from New Zealanders, some of whom believe that the status of a Covid-free country is in jeopardy.
Woods said the returning New Zealanders deserved “love and support,” but they also had to make a sacrifice by following the rules and staying in their hotels for the full two weeks. The majority of newcomers have done so, she said, but the little rule breaker net needs to be resolved quickly.
“What has become clear to us is that we are seeing a number of incidents that mean that we have to have police on site 24 hours a day with all the powers that the police have,” said Woods. “Climbing fences, sneaking through fences of fences … these are the types of behavior that concern us most.”
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who administers the mass quarantine exercise, said that six-foot-high fences have been erected in every isolation center in the country, and that exercise schedules and grounds had been reorganized to provide better security.
There are 5,648 people in controlled segregation and quarantine, and on Thursday, three other new arrivals tested positive for Covid-19.