A man with Covid-19 who escaped the new MIQ facility in Ellerslie took off in the middle of the night – but police were not alerted until 10.30am.
The man was arrested on Thursday afternoon at a house in Otahuhu almost 10km away, and will likely face a charge of breaching the Health Act.
The man – who has confirmed Covid-19 – left the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie quarantine facility without permission at 1am. Authorities are yet to say where exactly he went in the almost 14 hours before he was arrested.
Police have confirmed they were called shortly after 10.30am today and notified that a person had escaped.
Police cordoned off a house in Harmony Ave, Ōtāhuhu, and took him into custody this afternoon.
It is understood the man will likely be charged with breaching the Health Act.
“Police are liaising with the Ministry of Health on this matter to understand this person’s movements since he left the MIQ facility and being located in Ōtāhuhu,” Superintendent Steve Kehoe said.
Kehoe said police staff who responded to the incident were dressed in full PPE.
“All police staff who have responded to this incident have been following all health guidelines, in accordance with police COVID-19 procedures,” he assured.
“Police are working closely with our partners on where this individual will be taken and we can assure our community every precaution is being taken.”
He said any further comment would have to come from the Ministry of Health or MBIE.
The Herald reached out to MoH seeking information including the length of time he was outside the facility, and where he may have ventured.
MoH referred the Herald to MBIE and a response has not yet been provided.
Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins was aware of the situation. “MIQ facilities are very secured – I am very concerned that someone made it out,” he said.
Hipkins was not aware if someone helped the man escape.
He told the Herald that the last sighting of the person was at 1am.
There is “some” CCTV footage of the person but he said it was not clear exactly when he escaped.
When questoined further on why the escapee was not proactively raised at 1pm daily Coivd-19 press conference he said: “I understand some preliminary information was provided to the Prime Minister… none was verified.”
Hipkins did not brief Ashley Bloomfield.
Opposition leader Judith Collins took to Twitter to question the process.
“Can the Government advise why it took 10 hours to inform the police that a person had absconded from MIQ?” she said.
Calls to the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie were not immediately answered.
From last Friday, Covid-19 positive cases could be sent to the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie rather than the Jet Park for quarantine.
The hotel has 243 rooms and will take positive Covid-19 cases that would ordinarily quarantine at Jet Park.
The Herald reported in January there were 76 MIQ bubble breaches since the start of August, including unauthorised mixing or mingling, or people not wearing PPE when they were supposed to.
The breaches are considered minor, but every one of them is an avoidable risk of Covid-19 spread.
The most high profile breaches included visiting cricket teams from the West Indies and Pakistan, who were caught hanging out in common areas and passing things to each other.
But no penalties were handed down, in contrast with the more serious breach of escaping from MIQ.
By January, it had happened 10 times and involved 14 people, 10 of whom had been charged with failing to comply with an order made under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act.
That included a case in October last year when a woman escaped the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland through a fire exit between 1am and 3am.
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