New Zealand scrambles military to prevent further quarantine blunders

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The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has branded as an “unacceptable failure” a quarantine blunder that meant two arrivals from Britain left managed isolation in New Zealand without being tested for the coronavirus – which they were later diagnosed with. “It should never have happened and it cannot be repeated,” Ardern is quoted in The Guardian as saying.

Ardern reports that the defence force would now oversee the quarantine of new arrivals and audit the quarantine process and she also said she would temporarily remove the compassionate exemption under which the pair were released from quarantine early.

Health officials are tracing 320 people who are regarded as “close contacts” of the women, and they will be urged to get tested. Close contacts could include passengers on their flight to New Zealand and other quarantined travellers at their Auckland hotel, as well as hotel staff and flight crew. The women were now in isolation with a relative, officials said.

The report says the government is still scrambling for answers about why two women had not been tested before being allowed to leave an Auckland hotel after they arrived from the UK on 7 June. They had received a compassionate exemption to the compulsory 14-day isolation period for returning travellers in order to visit a dying relative 650km away in Wellington. The compassionate dispensation policy has been suspended.

Ardern said the new cases did not change New Zealand’s COVID-free status. “Our definition always assumed there would be cases at the border,” she said.

 

Full report in The Guardian

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