Incorrect testing info pushed out by Government four days before correction

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 31 Aug 2020, 11:14AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Incorrect testing info pushed out by Government four days before correction

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 31 Aug 2020, 11:14AM

Incorrect information asking everyone in South and West Auckland to get a Covid-19 test was published by the Government four days before it was corrected by the Prime Minister.

It was also published, then deleted, on the Ministry of Health's website.

On Wednesday night the Government's official Covid-19 media unit put out the call for mass testing in the region.

"Over the next week, even if you don't have symptoms, please have a test if you're in South or West Auckland or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get Covid-19."

That message was repeated on Friday – this time on the Ministry of Health's website.

"If you're in South or West Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get Covid-19, even if you don't have symptoms, please have a test," according to an archived web page.

It has since been removed from the ministry's website.

This information push coincided with a noticeable increase in testing numbers and was published a day after Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced the Government would test 70,000 people in a week.

It wasn't under Sunday afternoon – four days after the information was first published – that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that message was wrong.

"We are not asking every single person in West and South Auckland to get a test."

She was talking specifically about Facebook and Instagram posts published by Unite Against Covid-19 – the official Government Covid communications unit.

She said she found out about this information being published by the Government at 10am Sunday morning.

Ardern said she made it clear the situation needed to be fixed, but the post was live until roughly 1.30pm that afternoon.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Ardern said she was "angry, frustrated" about the saga.

"It was a mistake, I fully acknowledge that," she said before adding that she was sorry for any anxiety it might have caused.

The initial email asking all of South and West Auckland to get tested came just a day after Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced officials would carry out 70,000 Covid-19 tests in a week.

In the same press conference, he announced the ambitious testing regime he said he had been getting reports from DHBs about "testing fatigue".

"My message to New Zealand is please, play your part by getting a test."

He did say there would be testing of asymptomatic people in South Auckland, but he did not call for everyone to go and get tested.

In the two days preceding the Government 70,000 testing blitz announcement, there were 7000 and 4500 tests respectively.

There was 4300 on August 25, the day of Hipkins' announcement.

The following day – the Wednesday email urging South and West Aucklanders to be tested – there were 8500 tests.

In the following four days, officials reported 9000, 11,000, 10,000 and 10,000 Covid-19 tests.