Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Police dealing with multiple breaches of Aucklanders fleeing lockdown city

Police making checks at the boundary. Photo / File

Aucklanders are escaping the city’s Covid-19 level 4 boundaries by using unmanned back roads, false documents and other methods that are the subject of ongoing investigation.

Police continue to tackle a slew of lockdown breaches by Aucklanders travelling south at a time when the Ministry of Health is tightening restrictions on cross-boundary travels.

In figures released to the Herald last week, a Ministry spokeswoman said just 170 of the 3900 exemption applications had been approved for Aucklanders to leave the city.

There have been at least seven incidents, involving 16 people leaving the region over the last few days.

In the latest case, two people – a 24-year-old woman and a 41-year-old man – were arrested on Saturday in Wellington after allegedly travelling from Auckland in breach of alert level restrictions.

Police checkpoint north of Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Police checkpoint north of Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

They pair been charged with failing to comply with Covid-19 order and are expected to appear in Wellington District Court on Monday, a police spokeswoman said.

In another case, a high-profile Aucklander allegedly crossed the boundary and made onward travel to Queenstown.

A person who contacted the Otago Daily Times alleged this Aucklander was staying at a Queenstown Airbnb and had attended a gathering at the resort last weekend.

The tipster who wanted to remain anonymous said the Aucklander wasn’t isolating and was spending time with two other Queenstown residents.

A police spokeswoman said they were aware of the complaint, and were following up with the person involved to determine if any breach of the Health Act has occurred.

On Friday, two Aucklanders were arrested after they used false documents to visit Taupō, police say.

Three Auckland students have also been referred to health authorities after they travelled from Auckland to Tauranga last week.

The Herald received a tip that a student – part of the group – had reportedly travelled to Tauranga to attend a class at a tertiary education provider.

A police spokesperson said officers spoke to the group and no further action from police was required.

Officers had to also address three university students from Auckland after they allegedly crossed the alert level border illegally on their way to Gisborne. They were found on Thursday at residences in Gisborne and Te Karaka.

According to police, the trio had been self-isolating at their homes since they travelled to Gisborne on September 8.

Three essential workers who last week escaped Auckland for the Turoa ski field were arrested last Thursday in Ohakune.

Then there was William Willis, 35, and his lawyer partner Hannah Rawnsley, 26, who used their essential work exemptions to get to Hamilton before flying to Wanaka. The pair has since apologised after declining to continue pursuing name suppression.

The Herald had also received tips claiming people are bypassing the southern border by using two dirt roads unmanned by police.

A Health Ministry spokeswoman said travel into and out of Auckland was highly restricted.

“We appreciate this can be very distressing for some people…but the highly transmissible Delta variant means strong precautions are necessary,” she said.

“We are taking a very cautious approach to applications for personal travel exemptions to travel across or within the Alert Level boundaries. Exemptions are only granted in the most exceptional circumstances, on a case-by-case basis, and only where this is consistent with the public health response to Covid-19.”

The spokeswoman said the boundary controls remained crucial to minimising further spread of the virus.

“They reflect the highly transmissible nature of the Delta variant, and are designed to minimise the spread of the virus to other parts of New Zealand – ultimately to keep the whole country safe,” she said.

“The Ministry acknowledges the inconvenience and concern caused by Auckland’s Alert Level boundaries.”

Police said as of 5pm Friday, 78 people from Auckland have been charged with a total of 82 offences since lockdown, most for failing to comply with the Covid-19 order.

Others include failing comply with direction, prohibition and or restriction, two for assaulting, threatening and/or hindering and enforcement officer and one for failing to stop at a checkpoint.

Health officials say they are “cautiously optimistic” that Auckland will be able to move out of alert level 4 this week despite a smattering of few unlinked cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week indicated an in-principle decision that Auckland would move to level 3 at 11.59pm on Tuesday, September 21.

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