A man in New Zealand, who returned from India earlier this month, will face charges for leaving a coronavirus isolation facility and going to a supermarket on Tuesday, The New Zealand Herald reported. The man will either get a six-month jail term or a $4,000 [approximately Rs 1.96 lakh] fine.
The 32-year-old man, who returned to Auckland from Delhi on July 3, left the Stamford Plaza hotel on Tuesday night and went shopping at the supermarket. He tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.
The supermarket staff told the newspaper that the man spent a lot of time in the health and beauty sections and also took selfies. He was out of the quarantine facility for about 70 minutes and returned on his own.
New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins said that the man may have escaped the isolation facility through a smoking area where the fences were being replaced. “These are acts of selfishness and we intend to use the full weight of the law,” he was quoted as saying by broadcaster Radio New Zealand.
Hipkins added that his assessment of the spread of infection due to this case was low. Health officials analysed CCTV footage and also questioned the man. “The person wore a mask although indicated that was removed for short periods of time,” Hipkins said.
The supermarket, meanwhile, said that it will close for a day for sanitisation. “We have asked all of our team that were working last night, including the nightfill team, to self isolate as a precautionary measure,” the store was quoted as saying by Radio New Zealand. “They will get tested over the next few days and we are offering them any and all support they need.”
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the head of the isolation facility from where the man escaped, said that his team will reevaluate the security policy in place. He added that a guard had seen the man leave but could have mistaken him for a contractor. “They [the guards] don’t have the powers of police to apprehend,” he said. Clearly it’s about communicating...if it’s logical that they take chase then that’s what they do. It certainly looks like it was a spur of the moment idea.”
New Zealand’s fight against the coronavirus has been praised as a global success story. The country has reported 1,537 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths so far, according to the Johns Hopkins University.