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Man charged over leaving Hamilton isolation facility named

A Queenstown man, charged over absconding from a Hamilton hotel on Thursday night while in Covid-19 managed isolation, has been remanded into the custody of the Department of Corrections.

The Distinction Hotel in Hamilton. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Martin James McVicar, 52, from Jacks Point in Queenstown appeared in Hamilton District Court this afternoon.

He is charged with intentionally failing to comply with an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and with damaging a 52-inch television at the Distinction Hotel in the suburb of Te Rapa.

Police said the accused left the hotel after cutting through a 1.8m fence around the facility about 6.30pm, and left for about half an hour.

He visited the Brews liquor store on Te Rapa Road before returning to the hotel about 500m away, they said.

The defendant appeared in court via audio visual link and was wearing a mask, but it was not covering his face.

His lawyer, Russell Nye-Wood, said his client wanted to return to the hotel but this was opposed by police.

Nye-Wood said there was an obligation on the Crown for McVicar to be held in quarantine for the four remaining days of his enforced isolation.

He said there was no just cause for him to be detained in jail.

Police told the court that McVicar had been non-compliant while in isolation.

Community Magistrate Robyn Paterson said McVicar had been warned about his behaviour last Friday but then absconded on Thursday evening.

She said he had been particularly difficult to deal with in isolation and described his political beliefs as strong.

Paterson said New Zealand was going through very tough times and many people had made sacrifices, both physical and mentally.

She refused bail and remanded him in custody without plea to reappear in the Hamilton District Court on 15 July.

The Minister of Health said he was advised that there were no other customers in the store when the escapee was there, based on the CCTV footage.

The man has twice tested negative for Covid-19, first in a test taken on day three of his isolation period, and again today.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of managed isolation and quarantine, said it was "important to note that the Covid-19 health risk has been assessed as very low".

He said authorities were talking to local businesses that may have come into contact with the individual, and were looking at CCTV footage to confirm his movements.

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