Five people who escaped from managed isolation in Hamilton last night have been condemned by Megan Woods.
Woods, the minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, said the absconders were putting New Zealanders at risk, calling them "incredibly irresponsible".
The group, an adult and four children who escaped from the Distinction Hotel, would face consequences, Woods said.
One of the group, a 17-year-old boy, was on the run during the night but was discovered early this morning after a police search, Air Commodore Darryn Webb said this morning.
The remainder of the group had already been located and returned to the hotel.
"A person was seen exiting over the facility fence at 7pm by the onsite police officer who immediately took action to locate and apprehend them. Four people were found and detained by 7.50pm and have been returned to the facility," Webb said last night.
All five people have returned negative results on their day three test results. The group that were returned to the Distinction Hotel were under police supervision.
A routine police patrol as part of security arrangements in place at all facilities meant apprehensions happened quickly, Woods said last night.
"The speedy apprehension of four of the absconders highlights the importance of the police presence at our facilities. This is incredibly irresponsible behaviour by this group.
"Our only chance of stopping community transmission of Covid-19 is by containing all potential cases at the border, and we are doing this successfully through our managed isolation system.
"People absconding from facilities before they have completed their isolation and returned negative day 12 tests are endangering the health of other New Zealanders and our Covid free status in the community.
"Everyone has to play by the rules. These people knew the rules and chose to break them and will now face the consequences."
While the group had all tested negative on day 3 of their isolation period, there was no room for complacency, Woods said.
"Earlier this week, a person who had a negative test at day 3 later had a positive case at day 12. We will be re-testing this group and anyone they came into contact with.
"All returnees need to be considered at risk of carrying Covid. Internationally this pandemic is growing not slowing and we constantly review these cases to see if there are any further improvements we can make to ensure people are not breaking out."
Distinction Hamilton Hotel and Conference Centre is one of the government's 32 isolation facilities.
Earlier last night a texter told Newstalk ZB's Marcus Lush there was a "major police operation in Hamilton".
"5 youths have run from the same motel the guy who went to get booze in Hamilton. Eagle is also involved. Major breach," the texter wrote.
Lush tweeted about 8.20pm: "Destination (sic) motel. Breached one hour ago and police were there with in seconds. Dog units eagle and at lease dozen police are chasing. Te rapa area is almost completely locked down . [further intel] #breaking"
About 9pm a person told the Herald helicopters had been "circling for 30 minutes plus in area East of Te Rapa Straight. Location of Distinction Hotel."
Another person told the Herald they live near the hotel and saw police with two people the person believed were escapees.
"I saw two police officers walking through Minogue Park down to the back of Waterworld and then they came back with two other people/escapees to Waterworld car park, and a police truck came and met them.
"Had been wondering what was going on as heard the eagle helicopter and saw police vehicles on Garnett Ave by Waterworld carpark."
There have been several breaches from managed isolation since the Government began requiring all returning citizens and residents to spend 14 days in isolation, to protect the country from Covid-19, which is still spreading rapidly overseas.
The DIstinction Hotel was the scene of an earlier escape, when Queenstown man Martin James McVicar allegedly cut through fence ties and walked 10 minutes to buy beer and wine 10 days ago.
Instead of spending his last four nights at hotel, the 52-year-old found himself in a prison cell after his alleged outing to buy a four pack of Leffe Blonde and a bottle of red wine.
He faced charges of intentional damage of a 52-inch TV and intentionally failing to comply with an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 by leaving a managed isolation facility and purchasing alcohol, and will re-appear in court at a later date.
Others have also tried to leave isolation.
Suzanne Marie Derrett, 43, was charged after she was accused of scaling two fences to escape the Pullman Hotel in Auckland on July 4. She is due back in court on Monday.
On July 7 a man - who later tested positive for Covid-19 - slipped through a gap in fencing at Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland and went shopping at a central city Countdown supermarket.
He was expected to be charged and receive a summons to appear in court once he was cleared from quarantine.
And on July 10 a person in their 60s broke a window and escaped from Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre in Mt Wellington, Auckland, before knocking on residents' doors near the facility during the middle of the night.
The person was returned to the hotel by police and given health and welfare support.