NEW Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the release of two women from quarantine before they were tested for coronavirus was ‘unacceptable’.
The sisters, both New Zealand citizens, had flown from London to visit a dying parent and were given permission to leave the mandatory 14-day isolation early on compassionate grounds.
They travelled by car from Auckland to Wellington, where they tested positive for coronavirus.
Ms Ardern labelled it an ‘unacceptable failure’ and has now appointed Air Cdre Digby Webb, the assistant chief of defence, to oversee all quarantine and managed isolation facilities.
‘It should never have happened and it cannot be repeated,’ she said.
Health officials said the women had not met any other people on their 400-mile road trip.
However, they said they are tracing 320 people who may have come into contact with them on their flight or in the hotel they stayed at while in quarantine.
Before the two cases were announced on Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without reporting any new Covid cases and was considered virus-free.
Ms Ardern has advocated tough border measures and has cancelled quarantine exemptions on compassionate grounds while the case is investigated.
Further infections would be a major blow for the country, which imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns and has seen only 1,506 confirmed cases and 22 deaths.