Two men were arrested at an Auckland hotel where people are being housed in managed isolation minutes after a fire alarm was triggered.

A witness, Jon Philip Smith, who arrived in Auckland on May 19 from Brisbane and is also in isolation at the Rydges Hotel on Federal St, said a man tried to run away and was arrested by police.

In a statement, police said they were called shortly before 6pm on Saturday following a fire alarm activation.

"One person was taken into custody in connection to a mental health incident."


However police said the man was arrested for allegedly intentionally triggering a fire alarm and not because he was "trying to escape".

"As he's appearing before the court we can't comment further," a police spokesman said.

Another intoxicated man also breached the cordon placed outside the hotel following the fire alarm event.

"He was aggressive to police staff and assaulted an officer. He was arrested at the scene," the spokesman said.

People without Covid-19 symptoms can go for supervised walks while under managed isolation. Photo / Michael Craig.
People without Covid-19 symptoms can go for supervised walks while under managed isolation. Photo / Michael Craig.

Kiwi travellers returning from overseas are placed in two-week mandatory isolation at one of 13 Auckland hotels to stop the virus from spreading.

Smith, 68, said people in the hotel are being denied exercise they badly need because of a shortage of security officers and that social distancing protocols were not observed when the fire alarm was activated.

He said people were "clearly getting fed up" and said hotel staff told him this was not the first time someone had tried to escape.

"The kitchen staff told me that even last week, there were people who escaped but were found and brought back to the hotel," Smith said.

"It appeared that this man was also trying to escape when police got him."

Under Covid-19 rules, everyone entering NZ is required to undergo 14 days of either quarantine or managed isolation. Photo / Supplied
Under Covid-19 rules, everyone entering NZ is required to undergo 14 days of either quarantine or managed isolation. Photo / Supplied

On the day after he arrived and again last Saturday, Smith said he was told he could not have his daily exercise because there aren't enough security officers around.

"I made the request that I wished to take some exercise and was told because of the influx of passengers from my flight there was not enough officers available for me to do so," he said.

"This is a clear case of the incompetent attempt by the health department to save us from a virus which has been eliminated but denying myself, a person who needs cardio exercise and has heart disease, the basic human need to exercise to remain as healthy as possible."

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Smith said the fire alarm was triggered on Saturday evening requiring all who were isolating at the hotel to use two sets of fire escape stairs.

He said "poor social distancing" was evident throughout the process.


"The set I used led through a narrow passage and door where social distancing at that point did not exist," he said.

"Police also failed to ask residents to social distance at any time in the evening and aviation security appeared to be non existent until the fire department declared a false alarm and masks were supplied."

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Smith said on Friday evening he was also told he could not exercise on a small concrete pad outside the hotel's main entrance on Kingston St after being earlier told he could.

"I was told I could no longer use this area because a bus was to arrive with more new residents on it and it was too much risk to my health to remain in the area and I should go to my room," he said.

"Staff on site had changed into full protective clothing and were wearing face masks which I had not seen them wearing before."

He was concerned people with symptoms were being mixed with those who had arrived without symptoms of the disease like himself.


"The earlier arrivals could well leave isolation before any symptoms of infection by the later arrivals become apparent and spread infection in the community," Smith said.

He believed standards were being lowered when there was a sudden influx of new arrivals and spare capacity wasn't available at short notice.

Up to 18 hotels are being used with two of those specifically set aside for those with symptoms and those who are being tested for Covid-19. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

A health ministry spokeswoman encouraged hotel guests to talk to on-site management if they had any concerns.

"Protecting our border is a critical part of the Government's strategy to eliminate Covid-19, especially now that domestic cases are at such low levels," she said.


"We do not want to put the good progress we have made in jeopardy and we know international arrivals are a potential source of new cases."

The spokeswoman said there were formal plans and procedures in place to ensure the health and safety of staff and guests during their quarantine.

"Those plans and procedures include for emergency situations," she said.

"Ministry of Health and other government agency staff regularly monitor the performance of hotel accommodation providers and are satisfied that the health requirements around distancing, personal hygiene and exercise are being met.

"That said, we would encourage hotel guests to talk to on-site management if they have specific concerns."

More than 2000 Kiwis are currently in managed isolation or quarantine and since facilities were first established, at least 25 coronavirus cases have been caught.


Smith is one of about 300 guests in mandatory isolation at the Rydges.