An Auckland man was able to break into a secure Covid-19 isolation facility and steal a laptop belonging to Government official who worked there.
He simply climbed over a barrier fence to walk into the reception area of the hotel and took a bag, which contained a laptop, then fled when confronted.
The security breach at the Crowne Plaza hotel on Albert St happened on July 8 but the alleged thief was not arrested until July 21, 13 days later.
The Crowne Plaza breach prompted taller fences, 1.8m high, to be erected around all isolation facilities and police officers to be stationed round-the-clock as extra security.
It's at least the third time an individual has managed to enter a facility where New Zealanders returning from overseas stay in isolation for 14 days.
While others have been charged with failing to comply with a Covid-19 order, often accompanied by a press release to notify the public, in this case a 32-year-old man was charged with burglary without fanfare.
A source told the Herald the man was "homeless" but police and quarantine officials were unable to confirm this.
The alleged burglar did not come into contact with any returnee at the managed isolation facility, or touch any luggage belonging to them, according to a spokeswoman for Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).
The MIQ spokeswoman said the stolen bag contained an Aviation Security laptop which was locked and switched off at the time.
The device was remotely disabled shortly after it was taken. The bag was returned to the Crowne Plaza facility a week after it was stolen with the laptop inside, although some personal items and work material were missing.
"Neither the laptop nor bag contained private information of anyone staying in managed isolation facilities," the MIQ spokeswoman said.
The break-in at the Crowne Plaza happened the day after a 32-year-old man in managed isolation left the Stamford Plaza facility without permission.
Davinder Singh was waiting for the result of a Covid 19 test, which later came back positive, and allegedly strolled out to visit the Countdown supermarket on 7 July for about an hour.
He has been charged with failing to comply with the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act.
The incident was widely publicised at the time, but there was no mention of the Crowne Plaza burglary.
Dr Megan Woods, the Minister for managed isolation facilities, referred all questions to her officials.
The MIQ spokeswoman said the public was not told about the security breach because the risk to public health was considered low.
The alleged burglar was in the facility for a brief period - "a matter of a few minutes at the very most" - and did not come into close or casual contact with any staff member, or returnee.
There were no positive cases in the facility at the time, said the MIQ spokeswoman.
"Decisions around public release of information are based on the circumstances of the incident and operational police imperatives. Taking all that into account, it was determined no public release of information was required."
Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Brand, of the Auckland City CIB, said a 32-year-old man was arrested on July 21 and charged with burglary. He will next appear in the Auckland District Court in November.
Since the Crowne Plaza burglary in July, the MIQ spokeswoman said security at all managed isolation facilities had been improved.
A timber-framed Perspex wall has been erected at the Crowne Plaza to prevent any possible access over the barrier fence, while all other fences are at least 1.8m high.
Police officers now provide a "round-the-clock" presence at all facilities, and security managers were appointed at each isolation facility. They are responsible to assess the risks at the facility, the training of staff, and security co-ordination.
There has been a renewed focus on management of the border since it emerged that frontline staff coming into contact with people in isolation facilities were not being tested, despite assurances given by the Ministry of Health.
The value of mandatory testing was illustrated this week when a maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel isolation facility tested positive for Covid-19, with no evidence to show they came into contact with a returnee.
This raises the possibility of transmission by simply touching an infected surface.
The positive test at the Rydges Hotel was found on Tuesday during mass testing of anyone working at the border, following the discovery of community transmission linked to the Americold coolstore in Mt Wellington.
The new outbreak put Auckland into level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country under level 2 restrictions last week, which will stay in place until at least next Wednesday.
As of yesterday, 75 positive cases have been linked to the Auckland cluster.
Genomic testing shows the positive case at the Rydges Hotel is a different strain of the virus to that of the community cluster.
There had been 102 days without community transmission of Covid-19 prior to the new outbreak. During that time, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the government had been incorrectly reassured by the Ministry of Health that border staff were tested regularly for the virus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that an extra 500 Defence Force personnel would be sent to managed isolation facilities to roll out the testing of staff quicker.
The Defence Force contingent now numbers around 1200, the largest military deployment since peace-keeping troops were sent to Timor-Leste.
The Prime Minister also said the Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) will directly hire security guards to help control the isolation facilities, which will make them less reliant on private security guard firms.