Hipkins, HDPA clash over what KFC worker was told; timeline on what was said when

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Mar 2021, 5:55pm
Chris Hipkins. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Chris Hipkins. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Hipkins, HDPA clash over what KFC worker was told; timeline on what was said when

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Mar 2021, 5:55pm

Chris Hipkins is vehemently defending the Government's stance on the Covid-positive KFC worker and her family.

The sister of a Papatoetoe High School student says she wasn't told to isolate - before testing positive.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claims she broke the rules, and up to 15 attempts were made to contact the family.

In a fiery exchange with Heather du Plessis-Allan, Covid Response Minister Hipkins denied an apology is justified or that they had contributed to a pile-on.

"It's a bit of a Catch-22 for the Government here. If we don't share information about what's happening, we get accused of being secretive. 

"When we do, we get attacked for it. There's no win here for us."

He says roughly 15 attempts were made to contact the family that failed - and none of them tested. 

Hipkins says everyone around the country knows that if someone in their household has symptoms and has been asked to get tested for Covid-19, they shouldn't go to work. 

"That has been the clear expectation of everybody since the beginning of our Covid-19 response." 

He says that if the family had communicated with health officials, they would have had this information reiterated. 

This is a look at who was told what when:

February 14 - the outbreak

Three people in one family test positive - including a student at Papatoetoe High School.

1.30pm - Hipkins and Bloomfield hold a press conference. Bloomfield directs staff and students to get information directly from the school.

8pm - After another press conference about moving Auckland to alert level 3, the Ministry of Health says:

"All other students, teachers and members of the school community should also stay home, call Healthline to arrange a test, and stay at home until they return a negative result."

Auckland Regional Public Health Service sends three different letters to parents, depending on whether their child has been identified as a close contact.

The letter sent to Case L - whose sibling is not a close contact - linked to an information sheet for casual contacts which said:

"Your household members do not need to stay at home or get tested, unless they are also Casual-plus or Close Contacts, or they develop symptoms".

Students are also sent a text message telling them "casual contacts to isolate and test (their families don't need to)".

Case L told Newshub the text was the last piece of communication she'd seen which is why she went to work that weekend.

February 15 - Auckland is in alert level 3

Because Auckland is in lockdown everyone is isolating but on the Papatoetoe High School Facebook page deputy principal Ben Claxton told a parent that families didn't need to be tested.

February 17 - lockdown lifts

Auckland Regional Public Health sends another email to parents and guardians which said household members were "encouraged to stay home until Monday" February 22.

It also said "all household members should work from home if they can".

February 17 - lockdown lifts as two more cases uncovered

Two more Papatoetoe High School students test positive for Covid-19 - one is a classmate of the first case and the other is her sibling.

The school is shut again and Auckland Regional Public Health sends another letter to parents saying: "Everyone in the school community – staff, students and household members – is asked to get a test, if they have not been tested since Feb 15."

All household members are also "encouraged" to stay home until Monday.

"All household members should work from home if they can."

All students and staff are told they can't return to school on Monday without a negative test.

And anyone with symptoms is asked to stay home and get tested.

February 18

The school posts a message on its Facebook page translated into English, te reo Māori, Vietnamese, Samoan, Chinese, Tongan and Hindi, saying all students need a negative test before returning to school.

February 19

Another letter from Auckland Regional Public Health is sent to parents reinforcing that their child needs a negative test before going back to school.

It includes: "We are also encouraging whānau who live with Papatoetoe High students to get tested if they haven't already, or were tested before February 15."

It's understood the student starts showing symptoms.

February 20 - 22 - siblings go to work

Case J and Case L go to work at their jobs at Kmart and KFC on February 22 and 23. The Health Ministry later says they both started showing symptoms on Saturday.

The student gets a test on February 22.

February 23 - Case L's sibling tests positive

After Case L's sibling tests positive her family is moved to quarantine where she and other whanau later also test positive.

Auckland Regional Public Health sends another letter to parents instructing them to get their child tested for a second time and for everyone in the household to isolate and stay home.

"Everyone in a Papatoetoe High School household needs to remain at home until all students and staff members have had a negative result from a test taken this week.

"This means that everyone in the school community must stay away from work or any other school or educational facility until all the students or staff members in their own household have had a negative test result. This includes the supermarket, or any other place outside the home."

February 26

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is asked about the family and says she is "frustrated" and "they should have" been isolating.

The same day the official Covid-19 Facebook page contradicts Ardern and defends the family. The post said their household members were not required to isolate at the time Case L went to work.

"The family complied with the advice they were given at the time."

The page is run by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It has been approached for comment.

March 3

After the Facebook post surfaces Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield are asked who gave the contradictory advice.

Bloomfield said on Wednesday that while the instructions did change over time which may have caused confusion the family should have been tested sooner because Case I "had actually been symptomatic a few days".

He said the post was written without the context of when the family started showing symptoms.

Hipkins said: "The reality is there is certainly enough information there that the person shouldn't have been going to work. I think that's the point that the Prime Minister was making. I think it's a very fair point to be making," Hipkins said.

"Information changes as risk changes. There was clearly enough risk here for this family to know that they should have been engaging widely with the community."

Timeline text by Amelia Wade