Jacinda Ardern has called in the military to oversee the country’s quarantine facilities after a slip-up saw two women travel around the country while infected with the disease.
The new cases – a pair from Britain – tested positive for the COVID-19 after being allowed to leave mandatory hotel-quarantine six days into their stay on compassionate grounds.
The blunder was a setback for the Prime Minister who last week declared victory over coronavirus after imposing one of the West’s toughest lockdowns, causing greater economic pain than Australia’s partial measures.
It has since been revealed the pair became lost while driving eight hours from Auckland to Wellington and had to stop and ask for directions.
According to National MP Michael Woodhouse the women gave a ‘kiss and cuddle’ to the person who helped them find their way.
Health authorities have now identified 320 people who came in close contact with the pair. Those close contacts are being contacted to ensure they are tested for the virus.
The blunder was setback for the Prime Minister who last week declared victory over coronavirus after imposing one of the West’s toughest lockdowns, at the expense of a greater economic hit than Australia is suffering
Jacinda Ardern has called in the military to oversee the country’s quarantine facilities after a slip-up saw two women travel around the country while infected with the disease (Pictured: An army officer controlling traffic in Christchurch earlier this year)
Assistant Chief of Defence, Air Commodore Digby Webb has been appointed to oversee the quarantine operations, including the processes of exiting people from these facilities.
He will have the power to bring in military personnel to assist in the operating of the facilities if needed.
‘I cannot allow the gains we have all made to be squandered by processes that are not followed,’ Ms Ardern said on Wednesday.
‘Our borders, and the controls at our borders, must be rigorous. They must be disciplined, and they must have the confidence of ministers and all of you – New Zealanders – who got us here.
‘There is no room for error, even if it is human error. It is totally unacceptable that procedures we were advised were in place, were not.’
The women, one woman in her 30s and another in her 40s, entered the country on June 7, after flying from the United Kingdom.
New Zealand had enjoyed a 24-day streak with no new virus cases before two new positive results came back today. Even at its peak there were never more than 100 cases per day
New Zealand’s director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield (pictured) speaks at a press conference about the two new cases today
Currently, all international arrivals must spend 14 days in isolation and undergo three tests during that time.
However, the pair were allowed to leave isolation early to comfort a relative after a parent died.
They were granted permission to drive from Auckland to New Zealand – an eight hour journey.
The women were carrying a ‘supply of face masks’ with them but were not tested before they left the Auckland hotel.
On Tuesday New Zealand’s director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said they ‘had no contact with anyone else during that trip’ and ‘did everything that was asked of them’.
However, it has also been revealed the pair became lost while driving across the country and had to stop to ask a stranger for directions.
New Zealand’s economy is expected to contract by more (8.9 per cent) than Australia’s (5.0 per cent) this year, according to the OECD. This graph shows the two countries’ projected GDP as a share of late 2019 levels
The women gave the person a ‘kiss and a cuddle’ after getting their help, National MP Michael Woodhouse told Parliament.
Health Minister David Clark said he had been assured the women had no contact with anyone during their journey, the New Zealand Herald reported.
The women were tested at a drive-through facility in Wellington on Monday and the results came back Tuesday, Bloomfield said.
One of the two women was showing mild coronavirus symptoms before being tested, which she initially put down to a pre-existing condition. The another is symptom-free.
They are now starting a new 14-day quarantine on the property of their relative, who is also being tested.
The parent’s funeral will be deferred until after their new 14-day quarantine is over, Bloomfield said.
What are New Zealand’s coronavirus rules?
- New Zealand’s border is closed to foreign travellers
- Kiwis, permanent residents and their partners can return home
- There are only very limited exceptions for others, including for essential health workers
- Other ‘essential workers’ seeking to enter the country will have to justify why their job could not be done from abroad or by someone else in New Zealand
- Everyone who does enter the country is quarantined for 14 days in a hotel at government expense
- Self-isolation at home is only possible if an exemption is granted on compassionate grounds – and this procedure has now been suspended
- There are no restrictions on gatherings, movement or leaving the home
- Bars, shops, restaurants, schools and workplaces can all open as normal
- Weddings and funerals can take place with unlimited numbers of guests and crowds can attend sports events as normal
- Public transport is running as normal
- Masks are neither required nor even encouraged, though people may choose to wear one ‘for their own comfort’ if they wish
- People are encouraged to ‘maintain a record of where they have been’ and download a contact-tracing app. People must self-isolate if told to by health authorities