A screengrab from the man’s video of his arrest
A screengrab from the man’s video of his arrest

SocietySeptember 2, 2021

Man who escaped quarantine livestreamed his arrest, shared anti-vax conspiracy theories

A screengrab from the man’s video of his arrest
A screengrab from the man’s video of his arrest

In spite of clear evidence that non-symptomatic people can be infectious, the man insisted that he could not be Covid-positive because he was not sick.

Footage viewed by The Spinoff shows a Covid-positive man, who absconded from quarantine in Ellerslie today and spent more than 12 hours in the community, livestreamed his own arrest, and shared conspiracy theories online.

In the video, a police officer in full PPE asks the man to step into a police van. “What the fuck’s all this about?” the man says. The officer responds: “You’re Covid positive.” The man interjects: “I have no symptoms.”

The officer continues: “You need to go back to the hotel. Do you understand that?”

The man was thought to have exited the quarantine facility, the Novotel in Ellerslie, in the early hours of the morning, but police were not informed until around 10.30am.

In a post shortly after 6am, the man wrote: “I had no symptoms at all n still got taken away so for proof that i am not sick i escaped i walkd/jog 3 hours in the cold/rainy night from elleslie MIQ to otahuhu and i still feel good im not fucking sick.” An earlier post read: “I was a close contact, I have no symptom n shit n i legit said over the phone to the doctors fuck your vaccine.”

The evidence is unambiguous: non-symptomatic people can transmit the virus to others. “We know people are infectious before they develop symptoms,” microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said. “And people can also be infectious without ever developing symptoms.”

In several other social media posts, the man claimed that the vaccine was responsible for making a family member sick with Covid. This claim is categorically false.

“Given how infectious delta is and just how serious it can become for people who are infected, this is deeply irresponsible,” said Wiles. “Misinformation kills. It kills because it encourages people to do terrible things.”

After his arrest the man was charged in the Auckland District Court via video link with failing to comply with a Covid-19 health order, and bailed. He is now at the Jet Park quarantine hotel near Auckland airport. Security measures include a guard “permanently stationed on his floor at a safe distance with line of sight to his room door”, according to a statement from Brigadier Rose King, joint head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine.

In a statement, police thanked his family for their assistance.

Speaking to media this afternoon, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said there had been CCTV footage of a man “hiding in a bush” at the Ellerslie hotel. “If there has been in any way a lapse in the system that has allowed them to do that then that is something that I’m concerned about and we will absolutely be looking at,” he said.

“A lot of work has gone into making these facilities as secure as possible. If someone has made it out, particularly from a quarantine facility, where we extra-staff quarantine facilities because we know there’s extra risk there, then of course I’m concerned about that.”

Brigadier King called it a “disappointing and unacceptable breach”.

In a statement she said the man arrived at the facility at 6.15pm on Wednesday. Facility staff were alerted to his absence by a family member at the facility that he was not in his room. “The room was immediately checked by Police and NZDF staff and Police then began their search for the individual,” said King.

She said CCTV footage showed the man left his room three times between 11.40pm and just after 1am. “On the final occasion, they left down the fire stairwell and approached the fence line. After hiding in bushes as an MIQ staff member passed, he departed the facility at 1.07am.”

An investigation into the incident “and any improvements or changes which should be made” has been commissioned.

Newshub reported this evening that the man had previously breached self-isolation requirements after being identified as a close contact.

This story was updated to include a response from MIQ

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