Back in early June, reports swirled that New Zealand had beaten back the COVID-19 pandemic.
“New Zealand Hits Zero Active Coronavirus Cases,” U.S. News & World Report wrote June 8.
“Today, for the first time since February 28, New Zealand has no active cases of COVID-19. According to our modeling, it is now very likely (well above a 95% chance) New Zealand has completely eliminated the virus,” wrote Michael Baker and Nick Wilson, described as “two of the key epidemiologists who worked on New Zealand’s elimination strategy.”
On Sunday, the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering said the island nation had had just 1,544 confirmed cases and 22 deaths.
But it turns out there’s something else going on in New Zealand.
“A leading epidemiologist says ‘thousands of people’ will be quarantined in isolation facilities for months — and possibly years — into the future,” reported NewsHub, a New Zealand news site.
“We’re going to have thousands of people sitting in these facilities, quarantined in isolation facilities for months, maybe years ahead. Sensible risk management says when a mistake happens you figure out what went wrong, and you improve the system,” he told the site.
Baker’s remarks come amid reports that New Zealanders are breaking out of their facilities.
The latest escapee, a person in their 60s, broke the window of the Waipuna Hotel in Auckland on Friday and climbed out of the building. They then scaled the fence and began to knock on the doors of neighbouring homes.
Their escape is the fourth since last Saturday, when a woman scaled two fences to escape from Auckland’s Pullman Hotel. She was out of isolation for more than an hour. On Tuesday, a 32-year-old man snuck through a gap in the Stamford Plaza fencing and visited an inner-city supermarket. The following day he tested positive for COVID-19.
The third person to have allegedly escaped from managed isolation was Martin James McVicar. He allegedly absconded from the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton on Thursday evening before entering a nearby liquor store and reportedly buying a four-pack of Leffe Blonde and a bottle of pinot noir.
All people entering New Zealand must stay remain in isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days after their arrival and test negative for coronavirus before they are allowed to return to public venues.
“In April, the country said it had ‘eliminated’ the virus as case numbers stayed in single figures, and in June, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that almost all domestic coronavirus restrictions would be lifted,” CNN reported on Friday. “New Zealand has seen several cases since.”
In mid-June, New Zealand announced its military would step in to oversee the country’s quarantine facilities and strengthen border requirements following a slip-up that allowed two people with COVID-19 to move around the country.
Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter turned COVID-19 watchdog, took to Twitter to highlight the reality in New Zealand.
“Don’t think developed nations with a tradition of respecting individual rights will trash them for #COVID? I have two words for you: New Zealand. Where indefinite confinement is already real, and PEOPLE IN ISOLATION ARE DESPERATELY TRYING TO BREAK FREE. Welcome to the occupation,” he wrote.
Don’t think developed nations with a tradition of respecting individual rights will trash them for #Covid?
I have two words for you: New Zealand. Where indefinite confinement is already real, and PEOPLE IN ISOLATION ARE DESPERATELY TRYING TO BREAK FREE. Welcome to the occupation. pic.twitter.com/uq57e3MpNK
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) July 11, 2020