Hamilton COVID-19 isolation escapees wanted to see close relatives, escaped before approval

Five people who absconded from a managed isolation facility in Hamilton on Friday were here following the death of a family member, it has been revealed. 

A 37-year-old woman and three of her four children, aged 12, 15, and 18, were located at 7:50pm, Assistant Commissioner Scott Fraser said on Saturday morning, after leaving the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton just before 7pm.

A 17-year-old escaped, fleeing north, located in Auckland at 4:40am on Saturday. He was detained without incident. He was apprehended at a residence in Auckland.

The minister in charge of managed isolation facilities, Megan Woods, and Air Commodore Darryn Webb on Saturday revealed more details about the family.

They had arrived in New Zealand from Brisbane on July 21. The family had applied for compassionate leave but it was declined as "the health risk was deemed too high at that point in time", said Air Commodore Darryn Webb.

An update of the application was "looking positive," he said, and they were to be given a decision by 8pm on Friday night.

The family was believed to have escaped the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton at 6.58pm. They escaped by allegedly forcing a window open and climbing over a six-foot fence.

The mother and her children were found and detained by 7:50pm on Friday and returned to the facility.

Four of the five have been charged with intentionally failing to comply with an order made under section 11 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 by leaving a managed isolation facility.

The 12-year-old has not been charged.

"Requests for exemptions are assessed against a range of criteria, including the level of health risk to the community, the ability to manage that risk, and people’s ability and willingness to comply with the conditions of their release," said Webb.

"All members of the family that absconded last night are being offered extra support by local iwi. Four of the family members have been provided with the opportunity to view the funeral by video link.

"The area where four of the family were found is a green space and does not require cleaning and disinfection."