Police catch five Covid-19 quarantine escapers
The fifth and final person who absconded from managed isolation in Hamilton last night has been found and detained early this morning.
Five people – one adult and four children – absconded from the hotel earlier Friday evening.
Four of the group who left the Distinction Hotel on Garnett Ave were captured, however, one teenager remained at large late Friday night.
Police confirmed shortly before midnight the outstanding runaway was still at large, although they were continuing to scour the city for him.
One person was seen leaving the hotel over a fence about 7pm by the on-site police officer, who immediately took action to locate and apprehend them, says Air Commodore Darryn Webb. Further efforts to find and return the rest of the group to the facility started immediately.
Four people were found and detained by 7.50pm Friday and had been returned to the facility.
One, a 17-year-old boy, was still outside of the facility as at 9.40pm Friday, and police were continuing to look for him, says Webb. A police helicopter was involved in the search.
At about 9.45pm Friday, police in Hamilton became engaged in a high-speed pursuit of a car through the city's eastern suburbs. That incident tied up many officers and it turned out to be unrelated to the runaways – however police continued to search for the outstanding absconder well into the night.
A short statement from Air Commodore Darryn Webb has now confirmed the 17-year-old boy was located after the major manhunt.
All five people within the group returned negative Covid-19 results on their day three test results, Webb said.
The escapees are not the first to allegedly abscond from the facility.
Previously, Martin McVicar allegedly escaped the same premises to visit a liquor store. He was arrested after allegedly cutting through fence ties to break out of the facility.
Hamilton woman Deborah Cuming lives near the Distinction Hotel. Her home neighbours her 88-year-old father’s property, which backs on to the hotel.
After the first breach, she said they had felt “really reassured” that everything had been done to tighten up security - “But now it feels like we were lied to.”
“It’s not as secure as we were all led to believe and that’s just not acceptable.”
News of the incident was met with an angry response from Hamilton's deputy mayor Geoff Taylor.
"Here we go again. Hamilton City Council needs to hold the Government to account," says Taylor.
"They have forced these quarantine facilities on us, and they are incapable of securing them as they should to ensure the safety of Hamilton citizens.
"It's not good enough. The city deserves better."
The Minister in charge of Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities Megan Woods condemned the absconders, saying they are putting New Zealanders at risk.
“The speedy apprehension of four of the absconders highlights the importance of the police presence at our facilities,” she said in a statement issued late on Friday.
“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 this group all tested negative on day 3 there is no room for complacency. 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.”