Update following MIQ escapee, 28 new cases of Covid-19 in the community

There are 28 new community cases of Covid-19 today - 27 in Auckland and one in Wellington, Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay has confirmed.

This takes the total number of cases in this outbreak to 764. Unlinked cases have dropped from 65 to 31, McElnay said.

McElnay and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson are addressing media on the latest case numbers and yesterday's MIQ escapee.

According to McElnay, there are 43 Covid patients in hospital, with nine in ICU.

A total of 31,668 - or 84 per cent of contacts - have been followed up by contact tracers, while 89,073 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were delivered yesterday. Just over 64,000 of those were first doses.

There are a number of people walking into vaccination centres casually, but McElnay has urged those people to cancel their booking if they're doing that.

Waitakere detected a positive case in wastewater yesterday but this is not unexpected given there have been cases in that area, McElnay said.

There are 28 new community cases of Covid-19 today - 27 in Auckland and one in Wellington, Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay has confirmed.

This takes the total number of cases in this outbreak to 764. Unlinked cases have dropped from 65 to 31, McElnay said.

McElnay and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson are addressing media on the latest case numbers and yesterday's MIQ escapee.

According to McElnay, there are 43 Covid patients in hospital, with nine in ICU.

A total of 31,668 - or 84 per cent of contacts - have been followed up by contact tracers, while 89,073 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were delivered yesterday. Just over 64,000 of those were first doses.

There are a number of people walking into vaccination centres casually, but McElnay has urged those people to cancel their booking if they're doing that.

Waitakere detected a positive case in wastewater yesterday but this is not unexpected given there have been cases in that area, McElnay said.

Escapee's movements revealed

Robertson called today's numbers "encouraging" and thanked all public health units across the country who are tracking down contacts.

He said the Covid-infected man who escaped from the Novotel was tested because they were a close contact of another positive case.

According to Robertson, on the Thursday evening on CCTV, the individual left their room many times. He eventually escaped down a fire well. He left the facility just after 1am. The person then walked home.

There are no locations of interest due to that walk home and no contact with any other person, Robertson said.

Defence force staff noticed the man was not in his room and started their check of the facility. Robertson said he would have had to jump over two fences to escape the facility.

"There was no risk to public safety due to this incident," Robertson said of the escapee - adding it was "regrettable".

He "rejected the assertion" that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put public safety at risk by not releasing information about the Ellerslie escapee at yesterday's 1pm press conference.

Robertson said Ardern knew it was an "evolving situation" and police were undertaking their investigation to find the man.

"This was a fast-evolving situation," Robertson said. "As soon as we were able to talk about it, we did.

"It would be irresponsible [to reveal information] while the active [police] operation was underway."

This is the first time someone has absconded since the defence force took over MIQ in the middle of last year, Robertson said - adding he thought the system was working well. He acknowledged MIQ was "not a prison".

"The system has been working well," Robertson said. "Every facility has high levels of security."

While Robertson could not say at what exact time police arrived at the house to apprehend the man, he did confirm that all the police officers who apprehended him were either fully or partially vaccinated.

Asked for comment on a reported second lockdown breach by top Kiwi athletes, Robertson shared his sympathy with those restricted by the level 4 regulations in Auckland.

"I know it's tough," Robertson said.

Public health guidelines

  1. Stay home
  2. If you have to go out make sure you wear a mask
  3. Stay in your bubble and reduce contact with others
  4. Act as if you have Covid-19 and as if others around you do to 

For more information visit covid19.govt.nz.

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.