Man on the Run; New Zealand Police Go All Out To Capture Man Who Escaped From Quarantine

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 30: Northland Police check travel documentation on State Highway One at the Maungaturoto turnoff with north and southbound traffic in and out of Auckland on August 30, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Image: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

A New Zealand man, who had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and was subsequently placed in quarantine, escaped his confines prompting New Zealand police to track him down in full protective equipment. 

Officers swarmed and cordoned off an address in the community of Ōtāhuhu in south Auckland on Thursday after learning of the man’s escape from a facility in Ellerslie, approximately 10km away, The Guardian reported. 

Steve Kehoe, a New Zealand police superintendent said, “Police are liaising with the Ministry of Health on this matter to understand this person’s movements since he left the MIQ [managed isolation and quarantine] facility.” adding that, “Staff responding to this incident are dressed in full PPE. All police staff who have responded to this incident have been following all health guidelines, in accordance with police Covid-19 procedures.”

The man was subsequently captured and appeared in Auckland district court via a contactless video link on Thursday afternoon and was charged with failing to comply with a COVID-19 health order. 

The man received bail and was returned to the quarantine facility. 

The man pulled off his daring, early morning escape, by scaling a fire stairwell and jumping a fence line then hiding in bushes outside the quarantine facility until staff passed, the New Zealand Herald reported. 

His escape was reported by another citizen at the facility who alerted staff when the man did not return to his room. 

Brigadier Rose King, the Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) said the incident was, “a disappointing and unacceptable breach.” adding that,  “MIQ is here to keep Covid out of the community and I’m investigating what happened in this instance to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s COVID-19 minister told the New Zealand Herald, “MIQ facilities are very secured – I am very concerned that someone made it out.” 

Currently, Auckland is in a level four lock-down, the highest level of lock-down defined in New Zealand. The level four lock-down is expected to remain in place until September 14. 

Citizen’s are only allowed to leave their homes for essential goods, to receive medical care or to exercise in their neighborhood. They are instructed to stay within a predefined bubble of people and have been told to work remotely if possible. Funerals and weddings are restricted to 10 people and public venues such as playgrounds and pools are closed. 

New Zealand’s “Zero COVID” approach in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the strictest in the world resulting in extremely low case counts for the island nation but at the expense of its citizen’s personal freedoms. 

New Zealand has recorded just 3,697 cases of the novel coronavirus to date with only 26 deaths, according to worldmeter.com.