Man cuts through fence to escape COVID-19 quarantine and buy alcohol

A man in his 50s reportedly escaped from his isolation hotel, cutting through a 1.8-metre fence to go to a liquor store. File / Getty Images

A man escaped from a New Zealand coronavirus quarantine facility, cutting through a fence to go to the liquor store.

Officials say a man in his 50s, who arrived from Australia on July 1, cut through a 1.8-metre fence to break out of his temporary isolation spot at the Distinction Hotel on the country’s North island.

According to a statement released on Friday by Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the man previously tested negative twice from the novel coronavirus. He’s not in police custody and will appear in court on Friday.

“Initial information suggests an individual cut through fence ties at the 1.8-metre fence to break out of the facility, and returned to the facility sometime after that,” the statement reads.

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“It is believed the individual was off the premises for around half an hour, between approximately 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.”

Individuals returning to New Zealand must stay in quarantine for at least two weeks, and test negative for COVID-19, before they’re allowed to leave the managed isolation facility.

“We have talked to one liquor store on Te Rapa Road where we believe the individual visited, and it has cleaned its premises as a result of our inquiries,” he continued. “Police ensured no one entered the store this morning until health officials confirmed it was safe to do so.”

But this isn’t the first case of its kind.

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On Wednesday, a 32-year-old escaped from his quarantine hotel in Auckland to go to a supermarket. He later tested positive for COVID-19, a statement by Webb reads.

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Webb said he was out smoking when he made his escape through a fenced area. He will be charged, the statement says.

Just a few days before that, a 43-year-old woman escaped her isolation facility in Auckland by foot, only to be found by police a few blocks away less than two hours later.

As of Friday, New Zealand had more than 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a stark contrast to the hardest-hit countries like the U.S. and Brazil.

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It’s believed the South Pacific country has dealt so well with the pandemic due to its isolated geographic location and by having one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, Time says.

On March 23, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern enacted lockdown measures that required citizens to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

She also shut borders and non-essential businesses, and required self-isolation upon reentry to the country.


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