Coronavirus: Judith Collins not impressed by latest managed isolation escape

The leader of the National Party says the latest escape from managed isolation "makes a joke" of the system.

On Friday evening, Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the official in charge of the COVID-19 managed isolation and quarantine facilities, revealed a woman had been caught trying to abscond from an Auckland managed isolation facility, having successfully done so before. 

In a statement, Webb said at about 1am on Friday morning, on-site security at the Grand Millenium Hotel intercepted a woman attempting to abscond through a fire exit.

After enquiries, it emerged she had previously successfully absconded between 1:07am and 3:09am on Thursday morning. 

"Normally all fire exits that are not able to be monitored by CCTV or that are not alarmed are monitored by security guards stationed near them. Unfortunately, a local decision was taken which meant that those guards were elsewhere on that evening," Webb said.

CCTV footage is being reviewed to understand her movements, but she did walk around the inner city. 

Judith Collins, the National Party leader, isn't impressed, criticising the Government. 

"I have always said that these guys couldn't organise anything. They simply can't. With a managed isolation system, they could be using Bluetooth technology on people with their phones, but also with a COVID type card. They could be doing a lot better in terms of actually managing it," she told media on Saturday.

"To hear that this person tried to escape and had already successfully escaped the night before and for a two-hour jaunt somewhere in the city and then popped back up again. That just makes a joke of the whole thing."

Collins said Webb was"yet another person in charge", referring to a line of other officials and ministers with responsibility over certain aspects of isolation facilities and the activities undertaken there.

"My view is I never personally attack or ever attack the public servants on this because they have ministers who they respond to. I would look to the ministers. They are the ones in charge."

In his Friday statement, Webb said absconding incidents are "rare but we treat them extremely seriously". 

"While I’m confident that we have strong security measures in place, these hotels are not prisons and this individual has wilfully absconded once, and then attempted to repeat this the following night when she was caught by security. 

"There are rules in place for every single returnee and we expect people to follow these during their 14 day stay in managed isolation. This is so they can return to the community safely, while ensuring the safety of all New Zealanders."

He said nearly 60,000 people had been through the facilities and there had been just 10 incidents involving 14 people leaving managed isolation. 

The woman who tried to escape on Friday has since tested negative for the virus. She arrived from Dubai on October 7 and tested negative on October 1 prior to flying. Her next test was scheduled for Saturday, in line with the routine day three testing. 

"Public health assessment is ongoing while interviews and investigations are continuing in order to identify the nature of any contact with individuals outside the managed isolation facility," Webb said.

 "However, it is reassuring that testing prior to arrival and also this morning is negative and that she is asymptomatic. Standard COVID-19 procedures were followed by police and staff who were in contact with the individual.

 "A permanent security presence has been established outside her room to ensure she remains at the facility."

He signalled that police charges are likely.