Wellington: New Zealand is increasing the military presence at its border as it battles a new coronavirus outbreak and seeks to prevent any further security breaches.
Around 500 extra defense personnel will be deployed at managed isolation facilities, almost doubling the current number, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday. “By scaling up our Defence Force staff we’ll be able to reduce our reliance on private security guards, especially in the highest risk facilities,” she said. “Our intention is to stop using private security contractors, particularly in the riskiest places.”
Ardern first called in the military to enforce border controls in June after two women who arrived from the U.K. were allowed to leave managed isolation early and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. There have been more breaches since, including a man who escaped a quarantine hotel and spent an hour wandering city streets before testing positive.
Ardern cited experiences abroad for increased use of the military — possibly a reference to Melbourne, where private security guards are thought to have played a role in spreading the virus from quarantined arrivals to the public.
At the same time, she said there are encouraging signs that a fresh community outbreak in Auckland is under control, with just five new cases reported today. The source of that outbreak, which has grown to 74 cases and put Auckland into lockdown, is unclear.
“While the current community cluster has not been sourced to a managed isolation and quarantine facility, nothing is fail-safe and strengthening security is a step we believe is useful,” Housing Minister Megan Woods said in a statement.
New Zealand’s border remains closed to foreigners and all returning residents are required to spend two weeks in managed isolation or quarantine, where they are also tested for the virus. Some 40,000 people have been through the 32 facilities so far. – Bloomberg