Thermal CCTV that triggers an alarm if returnees in border hotels try to break out is being rolled out across all facilities in an upgrade of security systems at quarantine facilities.
And the Government will try giving staff working in one managed isolation facility CovidCards with a view to rolling it out further if successful.
"This technology will add a layer of assurance to ensure we can track movements within facilities to enable rapid contact tracing and builds on the various other initiatives we have been rolling out to minimise risk of an outbreak coming from our facilities," said the minister in charge of the facilities, Megan Woods.
The security upgrades will cost $6 million and the Government is proposing to add the following security enhancements where feasible:
• Thermal CCTV (night and day vision) around the perimeter with geo-fenced alarming. This technology would create an alarm when people move within a defined area.
• CCTV in public and exercise areas to monitor distance breaches.
• CCTV in accommodation corridors to monitor any breaches between rooms.
• Security Control Room/Desk.
• Audible alarms on fire exits.
• Electronic access systems to restrict or track movement around a facility.
The enhanced security measures were announced half an hour before National is set to release its border policy. The Herald published details of it this morning, including that they wanted to issue staff and returnees with CovidCards.
Woods said benefits from the Government's measures included an increased ability to "quickly detect and respond to perimeter breaches and incursions".
They would also be better placed to detect breaches of managed isolation and quarantine facility rules and security, like physical distancing and use of PPE.
"It will also enable better evidence collection to support enforcement action and if necessary police prosecution for non-compliance," said Woods.
"Keeping Covid-19 at the border is a priority for the Government and these security enhancements are another tool in our toolbox to ensure returnees stay in the facilities and limit risk to the community.
"While no system is foolproof, these additional security arrangements add an extra layer of protection to help keep Covid at the border.
"We are mindful of the privacy of returnees and any additional surveillance will take place only in the public areas of the facilities, not in rooms."
500 Defence Force staff brought in
Yesterday the Government announced it would be bringing in 500 more Defence Force staff, bringing the total deployment to 1200 - the largest since Timor Leste.
The personnel will be rolled out over the next six weeks and would see each border hotel have at least 19 Defence Force staff.
Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb were interviewed on Newstalk ZB this morning.
Webb said Kiwis had a "she'll be right" attitude, and were not so good when being told what to do, which was why there needed to be a balance between treating the facilities between prisons and hotels.
"Spending 14 days locked in a room is not easy."
Webb said the situation was challenging, and at the heart was people.
"We have to be realistic in our expectations. And we are not adverse to improving as we go."
In terms of improvements, Webb said it was a human-based system, and so was unrealistic for there not to be small mistakes.
But increasing use of technology would play a big part in this.
The pair were also asked about NZ First's plan to put returnees in army barracks.
"We are not adverse to other kinds of facilities, started work on what other facilities might look like," said Woods.
"They are conversations we have had, where they would be, but we do already have these hotels, and they are also providing a way to keep them operating.
"Some of them are exceptionally good in terms of their layout.
"But we've always been open to purpose-built facilities."
This could include temporary houses and because the border restrictions would be in place for some time, they did need to look at more permanent options, Woods said.
As of this morning, 99 per cent of all workers at border hotels had been tested.