National leader Judith Collins wants inquiry into latest Covid cluster

Author
Audrey Young, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 7 Mar 2021, 3:27PM
National leader Judith Collins says there has been a lack of urgency from the Ministry of Health when people cannot be reached by contact-tracers. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National leader Judith Collins says there has been a lack of urgency from the Ministry of Health when people cannot be reached by contact-tracers. Photo / Mark Mitchell

National leader Judith Collins wants inquiry into latest Covid cluster

Author
Audrey Young, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 7 Mar 2021, 3:27PM

National is calling for an inquiry into the Valentine's Day cluster that put Auckland into two separate lockdowns but Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins has already hinted that changes will be made.

National leader Judith Collins said an inquiry should cover:
• The performance of contract tracing.
• Communication of public health messaging.
• Whether the testing regime met expectations.
• If saliva or antigen testing should be used more fully.
• The legality of orders issued around testing and self-isolation.

Collins said National thought the call to go out of the three-day alert level 3 lockdown in February had been bold and ambitious.

"At the time we didn't know the source of the original case, there were two new community cases that day and not all of the high school students had been tested.

"It has since resulted in a week-long lockdown for Auckland," she said.

"These lockdowns are costing the economy half a billion dollars each week. It's the reason this yo-yoing in and out of lockdown must be avoided."

Collins said a lack of urgency had been shown by the Ministry of Health to follow up on unanswered texts or calls of people whom contact-tracers had been trying to contact.

How the domestic border is managed needed improvement, too.

"There were long queues of people trying to get back to Auckland last weekend, and late on Friday afternoon students trying to head home from boarding school were blocked from being reunited with their families at the border with no reasonable explanation."

Speaking on Newstalk ZB this morning, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins reiterated there would be a "debrief" on the response to the latest community outbreak and changes could be made.

And he questioned whether the expansion of categories of contacts from close and casual into close-plus and casual-plus was too complicated.

"One of the things we will go back and look at now is did that work?" he said.

"Was it too complicated for people and would we do that again if we were in that position again."

At 6am today, Auckland moved out of alert level 3 where most people stay home to level 2 at which movement is not restricted but large gatherings are restricted.

Director general of Health Ashley Bloomfield also indicated at a press conference on Friday that future messaging around who should be tested and isolated would be more direct.

He indicated earlier in the week there would be more door-knocking of people who could not be located by contact-tracers.

Hipkins said greater clarity around the sequencing of the vaccine roll-out would be given this week and said the Government had not wanted to outline it until it was more confident about the arrival times of the various vaccines.