A New Zealand citizen could face up to six months in prison for a late-night trip to the supermarket. The Associated Press reports that the 32-year-old New Zealand man escaped quarantine at the Stamford Plaza hotel in Auckland. He had just returned to the country from India, he was self-isolating as required by law. He tested positive for COVID-19 the next day.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the head of managed isolation and quarantine for the country, told the Associated Press that New Zealand authorities plan to press charges against him. According to New Zealand’s Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, the man could face time in prison or a substantial fine.
After escaping through a hole in the hotel’s fence, the man reportedly spent a little more than an hour out in public and entered a supermarket to buy snacks.
“Security attempted to follow the man but were unsuccessful in locating him,” Webb told the Guardian. “Police were called immediately, and inquiries were underway to locate the man including reviewing CCTV footage and undertaking substantial area searches before he returned to the facility where he was then interviewed by police.”
The supermarket has been closed to the public for a deep clean.
New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the man had “let down the team of 5 million,” according to the Guardian. Webb called the man’s behavior “completely unacceptable” and said the department might add more officers to monitor the hotels 24/7.
The man is not the first to escape a quarantined hotel in New Zealand, according to the New Zealand Herald. On July 5, a 43-year-old woman scaled two fences to escape the Pullman Hotel.
The Guardian reports that about 30,000 people have been required to self-isolate for 14 days upon re-entering New Zealand, which has been one of the world’s success stories when it comes to staving off the coronavirus.