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Air NZ helps – but five people break out of quarantine

July 27, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Why would five people stage a break-out from a quarantine hotel in New Zealand, putting in jeopardy the Covid-free status of one of the very few countries to have eliminated the dreaded coronavirus?

New Zealanders may find out this week, with the apprehension by police of five people who absconded from a managed isolation hotel in the city of Hamilton, south of Auckland. They have been charged with breaching New Zealand’s Health Act.

The news came as Air New Zealand announced it was working with the New Zealand Government to align incoming passenger flows with available isolation facilities.

After a major manhunt involving police helicopters and dogs, four of the escapees – a 37-year-old woman and three young people – were detained in Hamilton. The fifth, a 17-year-old, was apprehended at a house in Auckland, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported.

New Zealand’s minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, Megan Woods, said the absconders were “incredibly irresponsible” and were putting New Zealanders at risk.

The escapees broke out of the Distinction Hotel, one of 32 isolation and quarantine facilities that New Zealand uses to handle arrivals from overseas. Most of the “guests” are New Zealanders returning to the country.

All five escapees had returned negative tests for the Covid-19 coronavirus on the third day of their isolation and were due to do another test on day 12, as the disease sometimes takes over a week to incubate. Instead of waiting, the five escaped by climbing over a wall.

Woods said New Zealand’s only chance of stopping community transmission of Covid-19 was by containing all potential cases at the border “and we are doing this successfully through our managed isolation system”.

The five escapees will be re-tested along with anyone they came into contact with.

“These people knew the rules and chose to break them and will now face the consequences,” Woods said.

The Distinction Hotel was the scene two weeks ago of an earlier escape, when a New Zealand man returning from Australia allegedly cut through fence ties and went shopping for beer and wine. He was sent straight to prison and charged with several offences.

New Zealand’s victory in eliminating the Covid-19 coronavirus after a one-month nation-wide hard lockdown has been hailed throughout the world. A fascinating interactive site which shows how New Zealand is performing in battling the virus, in comparison with any other country (including Australia) has been set up by the New Zealand Herald. It can be accessed on their site here.

MEANWHILE, Air New Zealand has confirmed it is working with the New Zealand Government to align incoming passenger flows with available isolation facilities. Like Australia, New Zealand needs to ensure its facilities are not overwhelmed by returnees – mainly its own citizens – rushing back to the country from other nations badly afflicted with Covid-19.

The urge to return to New Zealand is understandably strong among expatriate Kiwis, as Covid-19 proliferates in the Australian state of Victoria, simmers in New South Wales and rages in Europe and the US.  Life in 100% pure, Covid-free New Zealand continues rather as it did before the coronavirus hit the world, in terms of social interactions, day-to-day activities and sport  – though the economic consequences of halting all international tourism have been severe.

New Zealand citizens have the right to return to the country but not all can do so at once.

Air New Zealand said its move would help ensure New Zealand could continue to provide quarantine accommodation for inbound passengers for the required 14-day period. The airline has imposed a hold on international services into New Zealand since early July, following a request from the NZ Government.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says the airline continues to work closely with the Government to support efforts to contain COVID-19 at the border.

“We recognise we play an important part in supporting the Government and New Zealand’s fight against COVID-19.

“We have extended a hold on new bookings until 29 July, to ensure we comply with the rolling 14-day quota. Following this there is capacity for Kiwis to book flights to return home and we will continue to manage this going forward.”

If customers have a flight booked to New Zealand and no longer wish to travel, they are encouraged to let the airline know to free up space for other returning New Zealanders.

There may be a small number of customers who will need to be moved to other flights, and the airline will contact any affected customers.

Outbound Air New Zealand services from New Zealand to international ports are not affected by the New Zealand Government restrictions. Domestic services are not impacted.

Written by Peter Needham


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