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New Zealand Reviews Hotel Quarantine Security After Covid Escape


New Zealand officials are reviewing security at mandatory quarantine hotels after a man who tested positive for Covid-19 escaped and spent an hour wandering city streets.

The man left his quarantine at an inner city Auckland hotel late Tuesday and visited a nearby grocery store before returning, Health Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters. His positive test result for the virus was received on Wednesday.

New Zealand citizens who return home from abroad face a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in isolation hotels as the nation focuses its efforts on preventing a return of community transmission. There are just 23 active cases of the virus in New Zealand, all of whom are in quarantine.

“The advice I have had from officials is that the public health risk is very low,” said Hipkins. “There is no evidence at this point that the person has come into contact with people while they were out on their walk, and also they were asymptomatic. The combination of those factors creates a very low risk profile.”

The man, 32, left the hotel’s outside smoking area when a fence was being replaced. Despite his absence being quickly registered, he was outside of the hotel for more than an hour. CCTV footage suggests he didn’t have close contact with anyone at the store and officials are reviewing the footage, including interviewing the man, to establish if he went anywhere else. The store was closed today for cleaning and staff are being tested for the virus.

This escape follows a woman at another Auckland hotel who climbed two fences late last week before being apprehended. Hipkins said the absconding is an “act of selfishness” and unacceptable. The man in the second case will be charged under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act.

“This person deliberately and willfully broke the law,” Hipkins said. “The government’s expectation is there will be a zero tolerance approach to this kind of behavior.”


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