Coronavirus: Four Hamilton isolation absconders face charges

Four of the five people who absconded from a COVID-19 isolation facility in Hamilton on Friday night have been charged with breaching the Health Act notice.

Four of them, including a 37-year-old woman and three "young people" were located at 7:50pm, Assistant Commissioner Scott Fraser said on Saturday morning. A 17-year-old male fled north, located in Waitemata at 4:40am on Saturday. He was detained without incident.

The 17-year-old will appear in an Auckland Youth Court on Saturday. The three others facing charges will appear in Hamilton District and Youth Courts.

"Locating these people was a priority for police," said Fraser. 

"We committed a considerable number of resources, including the Eagle helicopter, to our search for the young man overnight."

Their enquiries are ongoing. 

"A person was seen exiting over the facility fence by a routine police patrol, and efforts to find and return the group to the facility started immediately," Air Commodore Darryn Webb said on Friday evening.

The facility they escaped from - the Distinction Hotel in Te Rapa - is believed to be the same one from which a man absconded earlier this month to buy some liquor. He faces a charge of intentionally failing to comply with an order under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

"The speedy apprehension of four of the absconders highlights the importance of the police presence at our facilities. This is incredibly irresponsible behaviour by this group," Megan Woods, the minister responsible for running the isolation facilities, said on Friday night.

"Our only chance of stopping community transmission of COVID-19 is by containing all potential cases at the border, and we are doing this successfully through our managed isolation system."

There have been no cases of community transmission of the virus behind COVID-19 in New Zealand for months. Elsewhere in the world, the rate of infection is accelerating.