Saturday, December 4

MIQ Hotels Record 117 Boundary Violations or Attempts in 10 Months

The returnees were caught escaping from MIQ hotels, attempting to escape, or venturing into off-limits areas 117 times in a 10-month period.

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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Officials informed the public about only three of those escape incidents between September 1, 2020 and July 11, 2021, and only after the fugitive was found.

A list obtained under the Official Information Law shows that the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment recorded incidents of ‘escape, attempted escape or unauthorized access’ approximately once every three days, in 30 different MIQ hotels.

Due to the number of incidents, the ministry declined to provide further details of the violations, including whether the person had left the hotel and any specific follow-up action they took.

It said it did not record where each offender had traveled from or how long they had been away from the hotel.

The Crowne Plaza in Auckland had the highest number of incidents, with 13 in total, including four in an 11-day period in October 2020.

The second highest on the list was Distinction Hamilton, where nine incidents were recorded.

No incidents were recorded in the time period at the Commodore Hotel in Christchurch or the Four Points by Sheraton in Auckland.

Only incidents with a potential risk to public health are reported – MBIE

In the same 10-month period, officials reported three escape incidents via the MIQ website and in press releases.

The Ministry said it will “inform the public of any attempted / alleged escape attempt if it reaches the threshold of affecting public safety.”

MIQ’s general manager of quality and service assurance, Shayne Gray, said that the local Public Health Unit conducts a public health risk assessment, noting if the person has shown symptoms of Covid-19, if they have had contact with a confirmed case and if possible. they have the virus.

He said the Public Health Unit will consider how long the person has been outside the hotel and whether their movements could represent a risk of transmission.

“This assessment will be continually updated as new information becomes available.”

One of the reported incidents was at the Ramada in Auckland, where a man made a rope out of sheets to flee and then returned seven hours later of his own accord.

He was later found guilty and sentenced to three months in prison.

Another was at the Sudima in Rotorua, where a man was reported missing from his room and was found by staff half an hour later.

The third was at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland, where a woman exited a fire escape, returned, and was caught making a second escape attempt.

In each of the incidents, the public was told that the public health risk was “low,” that people had no symptoms of the virus and that they had recently tested negative.

All had returned to the facility when the information was released.

In April, RNZ reported one of the incidents that had not been reported, involving a family that fled and remained in the community for more than two days.

Continuous security improvements

Authorities have introduced more CCTV cameras and alarms at MIQ hotel doors as part of a “security enhancement program” launched in August 2020, aimed at reducing the number of violations.

“Returnees are informed about the technology used at our facilities and the consequences of possible breaches or leak incidents,” Gray said.

The ministry is also reviewing security as part of an investigation into a leak at the Novotel in Ellerslie last month.

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