Two women from the same family arrived together in New Zealand on 7 June and stayed at a managed isolation hotel in Auckland, health officials confirmed on Tuesday.
The pair, one aged in her 30s and the other in her 40s, was granted compassionate exemption to leave mandatory government quarantine early on 13 June to visit a dying parent.
Neither of the women had been diagnosed with or tested for the novel virus before travelling from Auckland to the capital, Wellington, nearly 650km (404 miles) away.
Officials said the women used a private vehicle to make the journey. One other member of the family and individuals staying at the isolation facility may now be at risk.
One of the women had experienced mild symptoms, while the other was symptom-free before they were tested at a drive-through assessment centre in Wellington as part of the approved exemption plan, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, said on Tuesday.
“Compassionate exemptions are only granted if a detailed plan for self isolation, testing and health checks in the community is agreed,” Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, said in a statement.
“Everyone that is granted exemptions is assumed to present a risk of Covid-19 and all precautions are taken to manage that risk.
“We have great sympathy for families dealing with bereavements, although today’s news underscores a recent decision to not grant exemptions to attend funerals or tangihanga.”
Both women are now self isolating in Wellington.
The fresh cases of coronavirus have forced the government to review its policy of compassionate exemptions to quarantine rules for travellers entering New Zealand.
Health minister Dr David Clark ordered the policy to be suspended until the government had “confidence” in the system.
“Compassionate exemptions should be rare and rigorous and it appears that this case did not include the checks that we expected to be happening. That’s not acceptable,” Mr Clark said.
“Our border measures are a key line of defence against Covid-19 and we must ensure they are as robust as possible.
“The Director General will be reviewing the processes around these latest two cases, noting that he has already made it a requirement that all individuals must return a negative Covid test before leaving managed isolation facilities from now on.”
It comes a little over a week after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that local transmission of the disease had been eradicated.
Social distancing restrictions were further relaxed soon after and the country downgraded its national alert level from level two to level one.
However, border controls will remain in place and everyone entering the country will get tested.
“While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone ... Thank you, New Zealand,” Ms Ardern told reporters last week.
“We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort,” she added.
New Zealand has reported 1,156 cases of Covid-19 and recorded just 22 deaths