Health Minister Chris Hipkins blasts 'acts of selfishness' of two quarantine rule-breakers who 'let everybody else down'

Health Minister Chris Hipkins has blasted the "acts of selfishness" of two people in the space of one week who managed to escape the Government's managed isolation facilities. 

The Government announced on Wednesday that a 32-year-old man who arrived in New Zealand from New Delhi last Friday had briefly absconded from the Stamford Plaza managed isolation facility in Auckland on Tuesday evening.

The man, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, visited the Countdown supermarket on Victoria St West on foot and purchased items at a self-service checkout, before returning to the Stamford Plaza at around 8pm. 

It's the second time in the space of a week someone has escaped the facilities. A woman bolted from Auckland's Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility on Saturday night before being apprehended a few hours later on nearby Anzac Avenue. 

Hipkins described the rule-breaking as "acts of selfishness". 

"It is completely unacceptable that we have now had two people let everybody else down by breaking the rules, leaving facilities and putting New Zealanders at risk. These are acts of selfishness that we intend to use the full weight of the law to stop."

The Auckland Regional Public Health service has interviewed the man who escaped on Tuesday and viewed CCTV footage from the facility, Auckland CBD and Countdown to understand the risk posed to the public by this incident. 

"While investigations are ongoing, the current assessment of the risk is low," Hipkins said. "The person did not come into close or casual contact - that is two metres or more - with anyone else during the time they were away from the facility which was between 7-8pm."

During the time the man was away from the facility, he wore a mask, Hipkins said. But he said the mask was removed for a short period of time. 

"The person visited the Countdown supermarket in the time they were away from the facility including visiting a small number of aisles and using a self-checkout. The Countdown remained closed today to do a thorough clean."

Hipkins said although the risk for staff at the Countdown has been assessed as low, those staff will be provided with health information and COVID-19 tests. 

"I understand the level of anxiety that this causes to all of our team of 5 million, particularly those that may have been in that area at the time," he said. 

"If anyone is concerned about their health they should call Healthline or their GP in the first instance to discuss what your individual course of action is, including whether getting tested would be a good idea."

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of managed isolation and quarantine, said the man escaped through a fenced area at the Stamford Plaza when he was out smoking, as a section of external fencing was being replaced. 

He said security attempted to follow the man but were unsuccessful in locating him.

"We take any breach of the COVID-19 rules very seriously. Wilfully leaving our facilities will not be tolerated, and the appropriate action will be taken," he said. 

"The fencing in place at all managed isolation facilities is being replaced with 6 feet-high fences. Our security framework is currently being assessed to determine what improvements may need to be made, and security requirements are being re-emphasised at all facilities."

The man will be summonsed to appear in court at a later date charged under section 26(1) of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.  

The man could face six months imprisonment or a $4000 fine. He has now been transferred to the Jet Park quarantine facility in Auckland. 

It brings the number of confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand to 23, all in managed isolation or quarantine.