Police officers are being posted at all Covid-19 isolation facilities todayafter "selfish" and "reckless" breaches by people in Auckland hotels.
The permanent police presence at managed isolation and quarantine sites was introduced after a 32-year-old man absconded from the Stamford Plaza in Auckland's CBD for 70 minutes on Tuesday night. He tested positive for Covid-19 the next morning.
It was the second time a person had fled from a facility in Auckland this week.
"We will come down on them with the full weight of the law," Cabinet Minister Megan Woods said yesterday.
"They are putting New Zealanders at risk. Frankly, they don't deserve to join the team of five million."
Three new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in New Zealand yesterday, all of them in isolation facilities. Two of the people had travelled from India and one from Italy, and they were aged in their 20s and 30s.
In all, there are 24 active Covid cases in New Zealand, and 5468 people in managed isolation or quarantine.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb said a uniformed police officer would be on site at each isolation facility 24 hours a day, which would help ensure compliance.
Further measures included additional, senior security staff, two-metre fences outside all hotels, and stricter checks on granting exemptions from isolation. Smoking areas would not be banned, but they would now be monitored at all times.
Police have indicated that they will charge the 32 year-old man who absconded on Tuesday.
After arriving from India on July 3, he escaped from a smoking area at Stamford Plaza. He was seen leaving by a security guard, who thought he was a construction worker.
Speaking to the Herald yesterday, the man said he was "very stressed" by his situation, while adding that he felt "totally healthy and fine".
He repeatedly refused to say why he left the hotel, what he did during the time he was away. He also did not respond to questions about his positive test and the criminal charge he would face.
When asked why he felt he could leave the hotel, he said several times: "No one told me anything." He said his reasons for leaving isolation were different from the information officials provided, but would not elaborate.
Further details about how he spent his time outside isolation were revealed yesterday.
After climbing through the fenced section of a smoking area at the hotel at 6.51pm, he walked indirectly to the Countdown supermarket on Victoria Street West at 7.02pm.
He spent 20 minutes at the supermarket, and stopped in the aisle to take selfies on his phone. He then made a phone call for 22 minutes by using free Wi-Fi outside a shop.
The man walked back to the hotel via Albert St, Customs St East, Queen St and Victoria St West. The Ministry of Health said he did not come into close contact with anyone during his time out of isolation. He wore a mask but removed it a few times.
The Countdown supermarket cleaned areas where had he had been on Tuesday night.
It opened on Wednesday morning, before deciding to close following advice, but not instruction, from health officials at around 7.20am. The man's test result was not confirmed until around 10am.
Countdown head of communications Kate Porter said they had not received any advice from the Ministry of Health, including about closing or how to clean the supermarket.
She told the Herald the supermarket had previously worked with the ministry and DHBs during lockdown after a customer tested positive for Covid-19, so they already had cleaning processes in place.
"At no stage were we instructed or advised to close or clean the store by any external agency, including the Ministry of Health."
She said that police arrived at the Auckland supermarket just after 9.30pm on Tuesday night to review CCTV footage, after which surfaces were cleaned as a precaution.
It closed at its usual closing time of 10pm and opened the following morning at its usual opening time of 7am, but decided to shut shop at 8.15am for a deep clean and stay closed for the rest of the day.
Porter said the store was accidentally reopened for three minutes later that morning, but it was after the deep clean had finished.
Asked why health advice wasn't immediately provided to Countdown, Megan Woods said: "These are things we need to look at, and what the standard operating procedure needs to be.
"We are taking this very seriously. We need to protect New Zealanders."
The Ministry of Health last night said that there was no need to close the Countdown supermarket as a result of the man's limited time there, and that the ministry had worked with the sector to ensure best practice.
"Overall, the assessment of risk from this incident continues to be low."
In an earlier incident, a 43-year-old woman absconded from the Pullman Hotel on foot shortly before 6.20pm on Saturday and was located soon after a couple of blocks away at 8pm on Anzac Avenue.
The five police officers who came into contact with the woman while capturing her must now have Covid-19 tests and will also have to self-isolate. She is appearing in the Auckland District Court on Monday.