Covid-19: NZ Public Party leader Billy Te Kahika denies encouraging 'Hamilton 5' to escape isolation

The leader of a new political party that's suggested COVID-19 could be a Chinese bioweapon says he's been contacted by a number of families in isolation, desperate to leave.

Billy Te Kahika, leader of the NZ Public Party and co-leader of Jami-Lee Ross' Advance NZ, spoke to a relative of the family members who absconded from a Hamilton isolation facility on Friday night before their escape.

Less than an hour before they left the Distinction hotel, one of the family members posted a video of Te Kahika speaking about their situation. Te Kahika told Newshub her grandmother "reached out under huge sort of distress and emotional uncertainty last Friday".

They wanted to leave isolation to see the body of a deceased family member before his funeral on Saturday.

"There was no one for them to talk to," Te Kahika told Newshub. "They were trying to find out information from the people at the quarantine facility - they didn't offer them anything. They tried to get information from the Air Force staff there, they didn't know what was going on."

Their first application was denied.

"They basically had this document that didn't describe any reason why, on what basis. They'd had the testing, none of them had felt sick, they had displayed no symptoms."

They were waiting for approval on a new plan to be let out when they decided to take matters into their own hands.

"They were highly distressed, didn't know who to turn to, no information available and as a measure of desperation they got a hold of me," said Te Kahika.

Newshub asked Te Kahika if he encouraged them to escape.

"Absolutely not. Number one, we stand on the basis that the law is the law and it needs to be adhered to, whether we like it or not it needs to be adhered to... I don't support the idea of doing it, but I can certainly understand it. You wouldn't be human if you didn't understand it."

Te Kahika, who called the coronavirus outbreak a "plandemic" at an event on Sunday, said two other families have also been in touch, unhappy in isolation.

All new arrivals to New Zealand have to spend 14 days in isolation and test negative twice before they can mingle with the public. The Government tightened the rules for compassionate leave after a number of high-profile breaches.

Arrivals are tested twice, on day three and day 12 of isolation. The first test is to see if they're showing signs of infection right away, so they can be placed into quarantine instead. The second is to pick up any infections missed by the first, as the tests don't always pick up the virus in the early part of the infection. This happened last week - man who arrived from Africa testing negative on day three, but positive on day 12.

Despite no community transmission in New Zealand for nearly three months, Te Kahika told Newshub the border isolation system had been an "abysmal failure".

"We need to have a practical, pragmatic, factually-based response to handling the COVID-19 threat based on New Zealand standards, New Zealand needs and wants and the reality of our conditions here... I'm all for community health - I just want to clear that up right now... You'd be fairly untrustworthy if you didn't have that number one priority.

"But what we want to do and need to do is look at what's right for New Zealand conditions, and I don't think that has been done."

New Zealand's response to the pandemic, which has seen Kiwis' freedoms largely restored after a strict lockdown, has been acclaimed globally for adhering to scientific advice.

Newshub asked Te Kahika what he meant by "New Zealand conditions". He cited the lack of any recent outbreak, and that "we have one of the healthiest population bases in the planet".

He also claimed people were arriving in New Zealand on boats and yachts and skipping quarantine, without causing any outbreak. Asked if he had evidence, Te Kahika said he was waiting for a harbourmaster to "put that in writing for me".

The term 'plandemic', used by Te Kahika on Sunday, refers to a conspiracy theory video released in May which makes a number of false claims about COVID-19. Most high-profile websites it was uploaded to took it down.

Te Kahika told Newshub he is in no doubt the virus is real, based on his own research, but it was being used to promote a "politicised agenda".