Hotel escaper posed for selfies during 70-minute walkabout

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Jul 2020, 7:26PM
After the man's positive test this morning the Countdown supermarket was closed for a further "deep clean". (Photo / NZME)
After the man's positive test this morning the Countdown supermarket was closed for a further "deep clean". (Photo / NZME)

Hotel escaper posed for selfies during 70-minute walkabout

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Jul 2020, 7:26PM

A man who escaped from an Auckland hotel and went supermarket shopping took selfies in the aisles as he bought male grooming products.

The man, 32, will face charges after escaping from managed isolation at Auckland's Stamford Plaza hotel on Tuesday night. He tested positive for Covid-19 today.

He went walkabout for 70 minutes and during this time visited a Countdown supermarket in Victoria St West.

Countdown's corporate affairs general manager Kiri Hannifin told RNZ that the man "did a lot of browsing in the health and beauty aisle" while inside the supermarket.

He even stopped and posed for selfies in the aisles, Hannifin said.

"He had a phone with him, and he was taking photos with the phone.... Yes selfies, that's right."

Countdown said the man spent 14 minutes in the beauty aisle and six more minutes wandering around the supermarket.

He used a self-service checkout and purchased toothpaste, body wash and razors.

Meanwhile shoppers who visited the Auckland central supermarket say the man's "selfish" actions have potentially put others at risk.

Hamza Shamim, who visited the supermarket after 8pm last night, said the man's actions were irresponsible.

"I was wondering, 'Did this guy use the same self-checkout that I did?'

"It's really irresponsible that someone could do this at this time."

While the typically bustling central-city supermarket was relatively quiet last night, central city shoppers could've visited other local shops before heading home, risking transmission of the virus, Shamim said.

"A person should be much more responsible, it's not like he's a kid. And with cases of Covid-19 in India past 700,00 at the moment ..."

Shamim now plans to self-isolate and call Healthline to see if he should be tested, he said.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the head of managed isolation and quarantine, today said CCTV footage from within the supermarket has confirmed there was no close contact between the man and any staff or customers during his time there.

The Victoria Street West Countdown didn't close until 10pm last night after the man's visit, despite police attending the scene, and then reopened at 7am this morning.

Shelf-stackers worked throughout the night, refilling supermarket products at the busy central city store.

The store was closed today for deep cleaning, but Countdown's health and safety general manager Kiri Hannifin revealed the closure of the supermarket was the company's decision - not Government officials'.

"We were not advised to close the store, nor did we know until mid morning that the man was Covid-19 positive," Hannifin said.

"I made the decision to close the store. We did so because we thought it was the right thing to do."

Another customer, who didn't want to be named, told the Herald he and his wife visited the Countdown on Victoria St West last night, leaving the store before 7.15pm.

Worried at the idea of being exposed to Covid-19, the shopper called Healthline, who echoed Webb's statement that the man had no close contact with others in the small store.

But the customer said he was planning to work from home for the next few days as a precaution.

"We are still worried," he said.

"We don't know where he went to, we're not sure what he's touched."

The shopper didn't see anyone in the store wearing a mask during his visit, he said.

"He was very selfish," the shopper said.

"He should've taken precautions and been in control of everything."

Hannifin said eighteen Countdown staff were now in self-isolation and would be paid for the duration of their time off work, she said.

Meanwhile the man who absconded quarantine, will be summonsed to appear in court after he recovers and is clear to leave quarantine charged under section 26 (1) of the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.