20 Oct 2021

Pair charged with escaping MIQ facility, third person hands herself in

5:46 pm on 20 October 2021

A woman with Covid-19 has handed herself in to police after fleeing MIQ in Auckland and is due to appear in court tomorrow.

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Sign on fence outside isolation facility (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

She was one of three people to make a break for freedom in quick succession last night, after being sent to quarantine from the community.

Authorities say the woman was supposed to be making a quick trip home to collect her belongings, lock up, and look after her pet, before going to the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport.

She had been in hospital with the virus and was being escorted.

About 10 minutes after she went into the house - at about 10pm - the security detail went to check on her and she was gone, MIQ officials said.

National Party Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop wanted to know exactly what went wrong.

"It seems a bit unusual to let people have 10 minutes alone to go and do that," he said.

"No doubt there will be an investigation into exactly what's happened here and we'll get to the bottom of it. It's just really worrying that this continues to happen. People are put into MIQ for a reason and they should stay there."

The woman handed herself into police this afternoon.

Instead of being taken to an MIQ facility she was taken to the custody unit at Mt Eden prison.

She has been charged with failing to comply with the Covid-19 health order and is due to appear in the Manukau District Court tomorrow.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins suggested officials had been duped.

"It was an escorted visit. But clearly it was someone who has provided wrongful information and has therefore broken the rules," he said.

Hours earlier at the Holiday Inn, two people on day six and seven of their stay fled by scaling a fence.

Officials said they never left the sight of security and were stopped by police officers about five minutes later.

Two men are now before the Auckland District Court charged with failing to comply with the Covid-19 health order.

A 26-year-old man was due to appear via video link this morning, while a 33-year-old man will be summonsed to appear at a later date.

They were among 142 people at the Holiday Inn hotel who never planned to go into MIQ, but were moved from the community after testing positive for Covid-19.

Today Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was sympathetic towards security.

"I think it just demonstrates the job that is being done day in, day out, by everyone to ensure people are kept safe. Despite the fact that unfortunately, we have some individuals who have other plans," she said.

The escapees have earned scorn from National Party leader Judith Collins.

"We've got a city that's in lockdown. We've got people behaving like that. They need to be arrested and they need to be dealt with. It is absolutely outrageous that they have behaved like this," she said.

In a statement, Joint Head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King said the incidents were disappointing and unacceptable.

"These facilities are not prisons and these individuals have wilfully absconded.

"Deliberate breaches like this can put the wider community at risk."

This comes after RNZ revealed MIQ hotels had recorded 12 escapes, and more than 100 attempted escapes, or residents wandering about in off-limits areas of their hotels, in the 10 months from September last year.

That figure did not include the Covid-19 positive case that fled the Novotel early last month.

MIQ has declined RNZ's interview requests.

Authorities believe there is likely to be a low risk to the public from the three escapes.

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