Security at managed isolation facilities to be beefed up; Processes around what happens if someone escapes to be reviewed

Security at managed isolation facilities to be beefed up; Processes around what happens if someone escapes to be reviewed

The Government is again tightening security at managed isolation and quarantine facilities, following a man with Covid-19 sneaking out for 70 minutes on Tuesday night.

There will now be at least one Police officer present at each facility 24/7. Extra "senior" security staff will also be put on site.

Up to this point, there hasn’t always been someone at every site with the authority to apprehend a guest causing trouble or trying to escape. Neither private security guards nor Defence Force staff have the power to do so.

Defence Force presence at facilities was in mid-June doubled, as Assistant Chief of Defence Air Commodore Darryn Webb and Housing Minister Megan Woods were put in charge after it came to light guests were let out early without being tested. Two of these people were found to have Covid-19. 

The Government is also reviewing its procedures, following revelations the Ministry of Health didn’t instruct the Countdown in central Auckland that the absconder visited on Tuesday night, to close.

Woods explained the man spent 20 minutes in the store, going through the self-check-out. He didn’t at this point know he had Covid-19.

Police and Countdown staff on Tuesday night reviewed CCTV footage and later in the evening closed the store.

However, Countdown re-opened on Wednesday morning, before closing again to do a deeper clean than it did on Tuesday night.

While the Ministry of Health had been in contact with Countdown, it didn’t specifically advise it to close.

The man didn't stop at any other shops during his walk. Woods said he talked on the phone for 22 minutes and took indirect routes to and from Countdown.

Furthermore, Webb said smoking areas at managed facilities will now be monitored at all times. Tuesday night’s absconder slipped through a fence in a smoking area. The security guard on site thought he was a fencing contractor.

Webb said six-foot fences have finished being put up at all facilities that need them.

Woods said anyone who tried to escape would have the law come down hard on them, and didn’t “deserve” to join the “team of 5 million”.

Tuesday night’s absconder will be charged. The maximum penalty he faces is a $4000 fine or six-month jail sentence.

Webb said 27,723 people have gone through managed isolation or quarantine since March 26. There are currently 5,648 people in isolation/quarantine and 732 beds spare.

Within the next seven days, there’s expected to be a net 344 reduction of people in these facilities.

Three new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases in the country up to 24.

Those with Covid-19 were in managed isolation. It's been 69 days since the last case was acquired locally from an unknown source.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

24 Comments

Didn’t the PM promise NZ that the Army would be mobilised to and sort out this very chaotic and ineffective isolation ‘system’?

Due to the current law the Army do not have the power to stop someone. Some on this site think that liberty and personal rights outweigh public safety in this case, but will be first to blet about Government not doing a good job at the boarder.
Police union slams Government for posting 24/7 cop 'babysitters' at Covid quarantine facilities - stop moaning and do your job!

I don't know about you, but I like living in a country where the Army can't just detain people when they feel like it. They aren't cops, they don't have any training on how to act as cops, and they almost certainly wouldn't have the level of restraint needed to police the public.

Leave policing to the police.

And I say that as someone who was (many years ago) in the Army and knows what your average baggy is like.

I think a few signs in prominent positions outlining the penalties for absconders would be useful

I think also threatening to name and shame anyone guilty of breaching the quarantine order wouldnt go amiss

Lack of modern tech and limited human resources are the key factors contributed to difficulties in managing quarantines.

sensors on doors; apps to track people movement automatically not passively by scanning some QR code; harsh punishment on breaking quarantine rules;

Imagine NZ put up this quarantine system at the border in Feb 2020, there would not be the two months lock-down.

I should say that Labour made the mistake of not managing the border in Feb 2020 but did the right but very costly thing to patching up this mistake.

Your beloved Xi-dada (via CCP ambassador), demanded NZ keep the border open... I would have thought you would have approved? Or are you deliberately going against the “divine” state? Am not sure what that punishment would be? Maybe a year in a “retraining” camp in China’s most western province?

Horse bolts. Gate closes. Repeat.

Why is it that the new arrivals that get out of quarantine have Covid?

10
up

NZers are not being told the truth. It appears there have been 100s or 1000s of PRs leaving NZ, visiting their country of origin (COVID hotspots) for a few weeks and then blithely swanning back to NZ. And often showing little regard to following rules. The arrivals are not all ‘returning kiwis’ as we are led to believe.
This would be a good project for an investigative journalist - track & trace every arrival.
Imagine the mess next February when the Unis etc pull in 50,000 International students!

Yep couple of international students with covid in the lecture101 and the whole university will be flourished with covid

Evidence for this? And what is a PR?

permuhnint rezidint

Mortbelt. Wouldn't be that hard to do for a dual passport holder. Govt is going to soon be forced to introduce a ranking system for entry of 'returning' citizens. Wonder how many 'students' we'd get if the path to residency by working scam was no longer an option.

I think you may be right. It was the holiday season and many students and PR holders would have left NZ to their home countries and got caught out when the Covid breakout erupted and NZ imposed the lockdown. Now that flights are back, even repatriation flights, they are coming back, a sizeable number of them must have got infected overseas.
Now NZ will have to baby sit them and treat them. Besides taking the trouble of managing their quarantine, etc.
Those PR holders should be asked to bear the cost. Citizens shoud be given all free assistance.
Fair dinkum.

Permanent resident or citizen, there are many who are returning from overseas and are relieved to be home... but if you have left the country in the last three months (against government advice) then you should expect to pay for your quarantine upon your return.

ginger. Believing any data from a shambolic MOH requires a leap of faith but the mobile germ farm dickhead who went to countdown is said not to have been aware he had C19. Ditto our two world fuel economy record holding girls.

"Police guards", "escapees ", 6 foot fencing. Sounds like a totalitarian state. I would like to know what these places of quarantine are like. It sounds like people within are inmates. It would be nice if there were any investigative reporters allowed to operate in NZ to visit and report on the conditions, and the treatment of people in these places. Whatever the story, I trust that their needs are being met, and as we all know how difficult being locked down is, (and that's in our own homes, with our families), that the appropriate environment is being created for them to see out their quarantine. It may be that some our own friends and family are in, or could be in, such places. They are returning to NZ, not criminals. How on earth is NZ going to get close to opening up it's borders with such authoritarian views spilling everywhere?

I think the comfort level of foreign-based “returning” PRs is a low priority compared to the team of 5 million that locked down, achieved elimination, sacrificed 20% of our economy.

And this is why it all goes wrong. Nutters equating 4-5 star hotels with gulags and concentration camps.

Comments like these have me wishing for a downvote button.

It's a quarantine during a global pandemic, not a five star mystery getaway. Do they understand that some of us worked through a lockdown at severely reduced pay - at least those of us who were lucky enough not to be made redundant? It wasn't a bloody holiday for everyone here either. After two weeks, they get to mingle freely. That's because of what we went through, not because of anything they did.

Need to hand these quarantine rule breakers 6 months imprisonment. The alternative $4000 fine will change no behaviours as they will pay $2 a week and we spend more money collecting it than the original fine.

NZ has to stop being so soft on criminals.

This is a new function for police. With no sudden new resources, so they'll have to divert beat cops from elsewhere. Perhaps mobilizing the army reserves (territorials) could be a better way to do this. or just hire some private security companies (i.e. bouncers with a bit of police supervision). I'm sure they could do with the work (with less sport events, concerts etc going on at the moment)