Covid-19: Church group breached alert level 3 rules by meeting in south Auckland

The group gathered against level 3 rules at a Māngere East address for a church service on Sunday. (File photo)
The group gathered against level 3 rules at a Māngere East address for a church service on Sunday. (File photo)

A man has been spoken to by police and issued a written warning after a group of people gathered for a church service on Sunday, in breach of alert level 3 rules.

Superintendent Jill Rogers, Counties Manukau District Commander, said police received reports the group had gathered at a Māngere East property for a church service.

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Rogers said this involved multiple people who did not live there.

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“A man was spoken to at the address around the risks to the public created by those who are not following the restrictions in place, and he was issued with a written warning in relation to this breach.”

Rogers said it was important everyone did their part to reduce the risk of community transmission by abiding by the restrictions.

This week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed her frustration at those who breach the rules after it was revealed members of the fourth family in the Auckland February cluster, Cases M and N, had both were not self-isolating when they should have been.

The National Party has said it wants those who break the rules to be fined. Ardern said that responsibility rested with police.

A police spokesman confirmed a fine was not issued to the churchgoers who broke the rules.

He said: “It’s important to recognise that this report was received on Sunday - the first day Auckland returned to Level 3

“This individual was spoken to on the same day and educated around what the current restrictions meant and were warned that any further reports of breaches could result in further action being taken, including prosecution if appropriate,” he said.

Chris McKeen/Stuff
There was smooth flowing traffic at the Mercer checkpoint between the Waikato and Auckland regions on Monday afternoon.

The spokesman said enforcement would be considered where appropriate, particularly in response to deliberate and/or repeated breaches.

Since March 2020, 834 people have been prosecuted, 5587 people warned, and 260 youth referrals relating to Covid-19 lockdown breach offences, he added.

Police process 38,997 vehicles through checkpoints

Superintendent Rogers said a total of 38,997 vehicles had been stopped at Auckland's border checkpoints between 6am on Sunday and 3.30pm on Monday.

Twenty-three thousand were processed at the Auckland-Waikato border on Sunday alone.

This was more than Auckland’s 72-hour lockdown earlier in February.

Senior Sergeant Jonathon Chappell said crews at the Auckland-Waikato checkpoint processed the same number of people on Sunday as they did during the last three-day lockdown in total. (Video from March 2021)

Rogers said delays at the northern and southern checkpoints had been “minimal” since Monday, which was a far cry from the long waiting times on Sunday.

One driver, who was stuck in the queue from Rangiriri to the Mercer checkpoint – a distance of 10km – for seven hours and 45 minutes, said the wait times were “unreal”.

Motorists travelling north to Auckland faced lengthy delays to reach the Covid-19 checkpoint on the Waikato Expressway after the city was placed into level 3 restrictions.

Others reported toileting on the side of the road.

The border was put in place at 6am on Sunday after Auckland moved to alert level 3, and the rest of the country was placed in alert level 2.

It came after a new community case of Covid-19 was announced in South Auckland – a 21-year-old who had visited a number of places, including a gym and the Manukau Institute of Technology campus – while infectious.

A total of 583 vehicles have been turned away since Sunday – 293 at the northern checkpoints and 290 at the southern checkpoints.