Father concerned after quarantined son taken for walk with person with COVID-19

The father of a recent arrival who has been quarantined in New Zealand is concerned the full lockdown is not being enforced.

Stewart Gilbride's son arrived home from the UK on April 2 and is quarantined at an Auckland hotel. 

He still hasn't got his COVID-19 test results back, but was taken for a supervised walk around the carpark with another arrival positive with the coronavirus. 

Gilbride told Newshub: "They took the guy from the room next door who said that he had his results back and was positive."

National leader Simon Bridges described it as "hopeless and unacceptable".

Quarantine is supposed to be full lockdown with people forced to stay inside rooms - they can't go out for essentials. 

But not in this case, and the lax supervision has worried Gilbride if he has to take his son in.

"I was quite shocked partly because I'm in my sixties and that's a high-risk age group," he told Newshub.

The Ministry of Health couldn't explain to Newshub why the arrivals were leaving their rooms at all when they were supposed to be in full lockdown. 

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay told Newshub in a statement that, "all guests when outside their rooms wear personal protective equipment [PPE] and are supervised to ensure appropriate physical distancing and other protective measures are used.

"All guests will spend a minimum of 14 days and require a clinical clearance to leave."

Two weeks into the four-week lockdown and things on the streets may be feeling distinctly apocalyptic, but with the number of new COVID-19 cases dropping, the Prime Minister says Kiwis have "saved lives".

"I have no hesitation saying what New Zealanders have done over the last two weeks is huge," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a speech on Thursday, as the Ministry of Health revealed just 29 new cases of the virus.

As New Zealand hits the lockdown halfway point, Ardern said it's "going to be a marathon", but even a half-marathon is still a long way to go.

"Removing restrictions now would allow the virus to spread rapidly once again, and we would be back to the starting line once again in two weeks," she said.

And so instead of removing restrictions, the Government is adding them. From midnight on Thursday, every New Zealander boarding a flight to come home will be quarantined for at least 14 days.

"To be absolutely clear, no one goes home - everyone goes into a managed facility," Ardern said.

Simon Bridges, who launched a petition signed by thousands of people to quarantine everyone coming through the border, said it is "better late than never".

And it's here to stay, with Ardern saying: "There is no endpoint yet."

Eighteen hotels have been taken over by the Government, with most to be used for managed self-isolation for arrivals without COVID-19 symptoms. They can go for walks and fresh air but not to supermarkets.

One or two hotels will be strict quarantines for symptomatic arrivals, where they cannot leave their rooms.

Newshub asked Ardern if the Defence Force will be used to enforce the quarantines, and she said: "At the moment we've been using the police but we've always been open to using a range of enforcement."

But perhaps not it's enough.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said quarantine will be "very strict isolation".

He said any staff or people interacting with arrivals will be equipped with PPE, and arrivals will not be allowed outside their room.

"We cannot let the selfish actions of a few set us back and we won't," Ardern said. "We have what we need to win this marathon."

Cabinet will decide on April 20 if we crossed the line.  

Analysis by Political Editor Tova O'Brien

All the signs are positive. Pre-lockdown worst-case scenario modelling had us going the way of Italy or Spain, but now we're on the path to the best-case scenario.

Though as we know, two weeks is a long time in the COVID-19 crisis, so the Government is not willing to get ahead of itself. 

But the quarantine - if done right - will help immeasurably.

The Prime Minister also promised to significantly scale-up contact tracing - she's talking to Singapore's Prime Minister on Thursday night about getting our hands on their Bluetooth app that maps who you have been close to.

And she's pushing for more and better testing.

If it does all that well - and if all of us continue to do our bit, especially over Easter - we will likely shift to level three in two weeks. 

But level three is still very restrictive. More businesses, especially those online, will open, but still no mass gatherings, some schools will remain shut, we'll be working from home, public venues will still be closed - maybe some home food deliveries - but it's unlikely bars and restaurants will be open. 

The Prime Minister will outline in more detail life post-lockdown next week.