Coronavirus: New Zealand PM brings in military chief after ‘unacceptable’ quarantine lapse

New Zealand has brought in a top military leader to take charge of the country’s border quarantine measures after the “unacceptable” release of two women before they were tested for COVID-19.

The women, who are New Zealand nationals, had flown from London to visit a dying parent and were granted an exemption to leave their mandatory 14-day quarantine early on compassionate grounds.

This was despite one having symptoms which she attributed to a pre-existing condition.

They then travelled by car from Auckland to Wellington, where they tested positive for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “I cannot allow the gains we have all made to be squandered by processes that are not followed.

“This represents an unacceptable failure of the system.

“We require not one but two tests to be undertaken at those facilities… it did not, and there are no excuses.”

Ms Ardern said she was appointing the Assistant Chief of Defence, Air Commodore Digby Webb, to oversee quarantine measures and to manage isolation facilities.

She said Webb can seek access to military logistics, its operational expertise and, if needed, personnel, for running of the quarantine facilities.

An audit will also be carried out to make sure all processes in place are followed and any changes needed can be made to further strengthen the border facilities.

It comes just days after New Zealand announced it had become one of the first countries in the world to eliminate COVID-19 and return to pre-pandemic normality, lifting all social and economic restrictions except border controls.

However, Ms Ardern warned cases warned cases could appear as New Zealanders return home.

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