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"New Zealand authorities have apprehended three coronavirus-positive individuals who escaped from a government mandated quarantine facility, officials said on Wednesday.
They fled in two separate incidents. In the first, two people escaped from an airport hotel serving as a quarantine center for infected individuals, during the early hours of Tuesday evening, New Zealand officials said. They were caught five minutes after their attempt, with police and quarantine officials watching the entire time.
But a third person, who escaped at around 10 p.m. Tuesday night and subsequently succeeded in eluding law enforcement officials for hours, was only recaptured when she turned herself in, according to a statement from New Zealand police at around 4 p.m. local time Wednesday.
She will no longer be held at a quarantine facility, and instead be taken to a custody center, before going to court on Thursday, the police said.
The woman had arrived at the quarantine center from a hospital and had requested she return home briefly to care for a pet, fetch personal belongings, and lock her door. Quarantine officials escorted her to her home and gave her 10 minutes. When the time was up, officials found that the individual had disappeared. Police officials were immediately notified.
“These facilities are not prisons and these individuals have willfully absconded,” said Army Brigadier General Rose King, New Zealand’s top quarantine official, in a statement. More than 180,000 people have gone through the country’s quarantine facilities so far, she said. Illicit attempts to flee endanger the larger community, she added.
New Zealand, home to about five million people, had only until recently stuck to a policy of stamping out the coronavirus by combining contact tracing, quarantines, and lockdowns. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier this month the country would transition to strategy of living with the virus, and relying on vaccines.