New Zealand to charge man with COVID-19 who allegedly escaped quarantine, went shopping: report

He escaped quarantine through a fence before spending roughly 20 minutes inside the supermarket

Authorities in New Zealand say they will press charges against a man with COVID-19 who allegedly escaped managed isolation on Tuesday and went shopping at a local supermarket in Auckland, according to multiple reports.

The 32-year-old had recently spent time in India. He allegedly fled quarantine by squeezing through a fence at the Stamford Plaza hotel, which is being used for managed isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic. He spent roughly 20 minutes inside a Countdown supermarket, according to Radio New Zealand International.

"These are acts of selfishness and we intend to use the full weight of the law," said New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins."The person wore a mask although indicated that was removed for short periods of time."

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New Zealand, which has successfully eliminated community transmission of the virus, is trying to contain new cases at the border by placing new arrivals into a 14-day quarantine at various hotels. The man was tested on Day 3 of his stay, the morning after his supermarket trip, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, said the man was in a smoking area at the plaza before he ran through a gap where fencing was being replaced around 6:50 p.m. local time, the radio station reported. He was gone for over an hour.

Police are now looking through CCTV footage to determine his movements, according to the paper.

Webb added that a security guard watched the man leave but wasn't sure if he was a contractor. The fencing at all managed isolation facilities was being replaced with roughly 6-foot high fences.

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The supermarket was closed for deep cleaning and will reopen in the morning, said Kiri Hannifin, Countdown's general manager for health and safety. He said the company was "incredibly disappointed that this has happened given the potential for an incident like this to put our team and customers at risk."

"We have asked all of our team that were working last night, including the nightfill team, to self-isolate as a precautionary measure," Hannifin told the paper.

Webb said that CCTV footage indicated the man had not been in close contact with others at the Countdown supermarket and had used a self-service checkout.

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Depending on exactly what charges are brought, the man could face a fine or a maximum of six months in jail if found guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report