New Zealand authorities are looking for a Covid-positive escapee who allegedly escaped quarantine after being allowed to return home to register a pet.
The person had asked to return home to collect personal items, take care of a pet and lock down their home in southeast Auckland, said Rose King, co-head of isolation and managed quarantine (MIQ). “A security escort has been put in place to allow this to happen. They were given 10 minutes to do what they needed. After 10 minutes, security went to pick them up and discovered that the individual had disappeared from the address.
The escapee is one of three who allegedly tried to flee quarantine on Tuesday evening. Escaping quarantine is an offense under the Public Health Response Act 2020 and can result in penalties of up to $ 4,000 in fines or up to six months in jail. Authorities said that in an unrelated incident, two failed houdinis were apprehended about five minutes after their escape.
“They were observed by police and MIQ security all the time,” King said. She said that while there was a low risk that the men had spread Covid-19 on their fleeting love at first sight for freedom, “these incidents are truly disappointing and unacceptable to me.”
Earlier today, New Zealand increased estimates of the spread of Delta’s current outbreak, with Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins saying the number of daily cases could reach “several hundred”.
With its current epidemic surpassing 2,150, the country’s isolation facilities are filling up. Health officials reported 94 community cases on Tuesday, the highest daily pandemic count in the country. On Wednesday, it reported 60. Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the overall trajectory of cases would continue to rise, despite the drop between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Modelers advising the government believe the “R” value – or the number of people infected with each individual case – is around 1.25, which would result in a doubling of cases every fortnight.
New Zealand has avoided the worst of the pandemic, with 28 deaths compared to 1,448 for neighboring Australia.
However, a significantly less endowed health system – comprising half of Australia’s intensive care beds, per capita – means New Zealand could experience worse health problems with fewer cases.
“We’re probably going to see the number of cases continue to rise for a while and we need to prepare for it,” Hipkins told Radio NZ. “Modelers have different views on where we’re likely to overtake. It could be as low as 200 or it could be higher than that… up to hundreds. ”
There are 180 unrelated cases from the last fortnight. Mr Hipkins has denied that contact tracers have lost control of the outbreak, but health officials have previously said tracers would not be able to keep in touch with cases if they hit 200 a day .
Epidemiologist and public health professor Michael Baker told The Guardian that the number of unrelated cases shows that contact tracers are already falling behind.
“The system started to struggle with less than 100 cases – we know that because a few days ago they stopped assigning cases to clusters,” he said.
“It’s going to get saturated quickly, and then the problem is that it takes away one of the main controllers that is contact tracing… which will cause the epidemic to accelerate even faster. “
As Auckland and much of Waikato are stranded, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls for vaccination as the main line of defense.
As of Tuesday, 3.58 million Kiwis are at least partially vaccinated – or 83% of the eligible population (aged 12 and over). Almost two-thirds are fully vaccinated.
“We need to find the unvaccinated people before Covid-19,” Mr. Hipkins said.
“Covid is here. It’s in New Zealand… it will find its way across the country at some point and we want to make sure people have a chance to get vaccinated before that happens. “
Mr Hipkins, also Minister of Education, said the decision whether or not to reopen elementary schools was “one of the things that keeps me awake at night, to be frank.”
“In primary schools, these will quickly become the highest places of concentration of unvaccinated people,” he said.
The government will unveil its plan to reopen schools later Wednesday.