Police were stationed at Hamilton isolation hotel where man escaped, Health Minister says

Source: 1News

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says a police officer was stationed at the Hamilton hotel where a man last night allegedly escaped managed isolation to visit a liquor store.

The man in his 50s was arrested after he was alleged to have cut through ties on a 1.8-metre-tall fence to escape the Distinction Hotel, and was gone for at least half an hour between around 6.30pm and 7pm.

He then allegedly went to a liquor store on Te Rapa Road, which is adjacent to the hotel. Police say the business has cleaned its premises since and no one entered the store this morning.

The man tested negative for Covid-19 on his day three test, after arriving from Sydney on July 1, with the results of a second test today still pending.

He's due to appear in court today.

At today's 1pm briefing, Mr Hipkins was asked whether police were present at the hotel as per new guidelines around isolation facilities after recent escapes.

"Yes, that was in place. My understanding is the person left through a fire exit then cut through a fence," Mr Hipkins replied.

"I have been advised that there was a police officer on-site at the time."

Mr Hipkins then defended the isolation facilities record, saying there have been nearly 30,000 people gone through isolation and only three cases of people escaping them.

"Just to be clear, these are not maximum security prisons - they are hotels.

"I don’t accept people knowingly and willingly breaking the law represents a failure of the system," Mr Hipkins said.

National's Todd Muller said he was being asked every day about failures in the system.

“It talks to the fact New Zealanders have just lost confidence in their ability to manage this," he told media in Rotorua. 

“Firstly it was their own officials in terms of the Ministery of Health and others trying to manage it, that got exposed as being completely inadequate. Then they announced it would be completely fixed by putting in the army, then the police, and still people are popping out for a beer."

“New Zealanders have gone through far too much for such an ongoing, shambolic approach to what is a critical issue for this country."

The Hamilton incident follows another breach in Auckland this week, where a man allegedly escaped an isolation facility in Auckland and went to a supermarket. He tested positive for the virus the next day.

Also in Auckland, a woman allegedly escaped another isolation facility on Saturday, and was loose for more than an hour before being tracked down.

Both have been charged.