An investigation is needed into how a man with Covid-19 was able to escape MIQ's newest isolation facility early yesterday morning, some of New Zealand's top Covid-19 response officials have acknowledged.
But there should also be an investigation into why the escape went unmentioned for hours, even as PM Jacinda Ardern addressed the nation during her daily Covid-19 update, Opposition MPs were quick to suggest yesterday.
The man was charged with failing to comply with an order (Covid-19) after he left the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie quarantine facility without permission at 1am, just hours after he arrived. It wasn't until nearly 14 hours later that police in full PPE arrested him 10km away at a South Auckland house.
He has since been remanded on bail back to the MIQ facility.
Joint head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King described the breach as "disappointing and unacceptable", while Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said he was "very concerned".
Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the immediate priority was to figure out where he'd been and who he was in contact with, but she also indicated there will be a wider investigation "to make sure this doesn't happen in MIQ again".
"It is not easy to get out of MIQ," she told Newstalk ZB. "They are well-staffed, there is CCTV throughout, a perimeter patrol and two fences.
"You have to be quite deliberate to get out of MIQ."
Police said they were told of the escape about 10.30am. They praised the man's family for being "extremely cooperative".
By 1pm, when Ardern and director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield went live with their press conference to announce the latest Covid-19 community cases and government response, details were still too scant to publicise, Hipkins said.
"I understand some preliminary information was provided to the Prime Minister. None was verified," he explained, adding that he had not yet briefed Bloomfield on the matter at that point.
National's Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop called for an "urgent investigation into what happened here", as well as more answers as to why the escape wasn't disclosed earlier.
Taking to Twitter, Opposition leader Judith Collins demanded similar answers.
"MIQ simply is a mess at the moment," she later told Newstalk ZB.
The 243-room Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie has previously served as an MIQ facility for those arriving in New Zealand from overseas. It became the nation's latest isolation facility specialising in those with Covid-19 just last week, amid the nationwide alert level 4 lockdown. Previously, all positive cases in Auckland were sent to Jet Park for quarantine, but the highly transmissible Delta outbreak has strained the system.
Ten people have escaped from MIQ facilities between the start of the pandemic and January. Previous breakouts, however, did not involve people who had tested positive for Covid-19.