There were multiple bubble breaches within the space of an hour at an Auckland managed isolation facility on Sunday involving 12 returnees - including two with COVID-19 symptoms.
Brigadier Rose King, the Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, confirmed on Thursday morning there were three bubble breaches on Sunday involving 12 people on the same floor of the Crown Plaza hotel in Auckland.
All 12 individuals arrived in New Zealand on June 11 from Samoa and are now in isolation "undergoing further tests". Samoa doesn't have any active cases of COVID-19.
King said that due to their country of origin, the returnees - who are not RSE workers - didn't require day 0/1 tests, but all day three tests had come back negative.
The first breach occurred at about 9pm on Sunday. Two young masked children - described as "currently symptomatic cases" and who were supposed to be in isolation - were running and sitting in a corridor for about 45 minutes.
"While they were in the hallway, a returnee from another room stopped for around 15 minutes while sitting closer than 2m. They were wearing a mask," King said.
The children's mother returned them to their room but the incident was caught on CCTV and the facility manager rang both rooms to explain the rules.
"We have followed with a Samoan translator to reiterate the importance of following the rules. All returnees have had a 48h post breach swab [on Wednesday] and will remain isolated until they receive a negative result."
At 9:45pm, a returnee left their room and entered another occupied by their cousin. They were both in the room for about 20 minutes and didn't wear masks.
They were "re-educated" by staff and have also had a Samoan translator follow-up. The pair were swabbed on Wednesday and remain isolated until they receive a negative result.
The third breach happened at about 10pm, with seven returnees - including one involved in the first breach - sitting in a hallway talking "within close proximity" of each other without masks for more than 15 minutes.
Despite being warned to return to their rooms immediately and not enter the hallway without masks again, they were later seen back in the hallway.
The facility manager, on-site police, and a translator then "re-educated them" and gave them a warning.
"They have all been required to undergo additional testing as a result of these breaches and are in isolation until the results come back," King said.
"All returnees have had a 48h post breach swab [on Wednesday] and will remain isolated until they receive a negative result."
King said all breaches were detected and acted on that evening and were captured on CCTV.
"The actions of all involved are disappointing. Bubble breaches do happen from time-to-time inside MIQ. In the context of 145,000 people having been through MIQ so far, the numbers are relatively low though.
"The strict rules take a bit of getting used to for some people - especially in the first few days. The important thing is that we catch breaches when they occur, we work with the people involved to make them aware of the rules and that we take whatever action is required. That is exactly what happened here."
She said staff work hard to communicate with returnees in their first language, with all people involved in these breaches given the option of receiving their welcome packs in Samoan.
"The facility manager has since highlighted the key areas in the individual welcome pack and delivered new copies, in Samoan, to each room," King said.
"We had a Samoan speaker on-site [on Wednesday] who spoke to each room involved and talked through the key points in Samoan so we can ensure they have been provided with the right information, in the right language and also checked their understanding. We have told the individual returnees how they can call other rooms to communicate if they wish."