Joint head of managed isolation and quarantine Brigadier Rose King is defending the security measures at New Zealand's MIQ facilities after a man escaped in the early hours of Thursday morning, saying MIQ is "not a prison" for Covid-19 cases.
A man who tested positive for Covid-19 has been charged after allegedly escaping a managed quarantine facility in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie.
CCTV footage shows he fled the facility after three attempts to leave his room.
The man used the fire escape to head towards the Novotel & Ibis Hotel's fence, hiding from a patrolling MIQ officer before jumping two fences at the facility just after 1am on Thursday.
He was taken into custody later Thursday.
The man was charged under the Health Order with failing to comply with order (Covid-19). He appeared in the Auckland District Court via a contactless video link on Thursday afternoon.
A judge has bailed him to return to a managed quarantine facility.
The 23-year-old's mother has since apologised, adding that she was worried for his wellbeing.
King on Friday told Breakfast while the incident was "extremely disappointing", she couldn't assure it wouldn't happen again.
"Whenever humans are involved with something you can't guarantee anything 100 per cent, that's human behaviour. But what I am confident in is that our systems are strong and robust.
"Our role really is to protect New Zealanders from Covid and I take that very seriously."
An investigation into Thursday's incident is under way.
"It's hard for me to speculate on things when I don't have all that detail yet, but I can assure you that a key part of the investigation is what happened, what should of occurred, what did occur and what can we do better in the future," King said.
"Our facilities, they're not prisons. You know, the people that come into our facilities, they don't come into our facilities because they've broken the law, they come in because unfortunately the community cases have tested positive.
"This is a very stressful situation for anybody who comes into our facilities, let alone someone from the community. Those people who travel offshore know they're going into isolation before, but for New Zealanders, the Kiwis like you and me, this puts a lot of stress on them."
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson later reiterated on Breakfast that MIQ facilities were not prisons and were there to look after people sick with the virus.
It took 10 hours for the missing man to be reported to police, but Robertson said there was no "roll call first thing in the morning" for people in MIQ with Covid-19. He said people with the virus do get welfare checks throughout the day, though.
"We are relying on people to do the right thing here but we do have security arrangements in place," he said.
"I think our security system is good, but no security system is perfect."
Robertson said there had been 170,000 people through MIQ and only 16 absconders since the pandemic began. The last escapee was in July last year.
"Clearly it's not good, we're all disappointed by this, but I can say for sure that this facility has double fencing, it has security guards, it has CCTV. We now investigate what went wrong here but we have very strict facilities which have done New Zealanders proud."
Robertson said Novotel security was increased on Thursday.