New Zealand PM says COVID-19 quarantine to be overseen by military

Two new cases were reported on Tuesday

NZEALAND-ATTACK-MOSQUES-CRIME Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern | AFP

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern on June 9 had declared that the country is free of coronavirus; Ardern even did a little dance as she made the announcement. But, two new cases were reported on Tuesday.

Ardern has now ordered the military to oversee the country's border controls after a bungle that allowed two people with the coronavirus to leave quarantine. Two women who arrived from Britain were allowed out of quarantine without being tested for the virus, even though one had mild symptoms.

The pair were eventually swabbed and proved to be infected, but only after they made a 650km road trip from Auckland to Wellington to see a dying relative, an AFP report reads.

Arden said that the fact that they weren’t tested sooner and at border controls was “absolutely nonsensical” and border controls will be tightened to prevent similar discrepancies.

Authorities are now tracing 320 people who are said to be ‘close contacts’ of the two women.

She added that Assistant Chief of Defence Digby Webb had been appointed to oversee border quarantine operations and was being given access to military personnel and logistical expertise.

The South Pacific nations borders are currently open only to returning Kiwis and their families, besides some exceptions for some foreigners on business and compassionate grounds.

Post neglect on part of the programme that allowed the two women to leave isolation, Ardern also said that she would temporarily remove the compassionate exemption, for people to be allowed to leave quarantine.

Everyone is required to undergo two weeks of mandatory quarantine. Currently there are 3,500 people in border quarantine, with most of them staying in hotels where they are expected to remain isolated in their rooms and avoid social contact. Those in quarantine should test negative for the virus before they can enter the community.