The Mike Hosking Breakfast •

Ashley Bloomfield apologises for blunder but says he won't quit

The Mike Hosking Breakfast

New Zealand's health boss admits he has no idea how many people have left isolation in hotels without being tested for Covid - but insists he does not need to quit following revelations of various bungles.
"I haven't quit. I am not planning to quit. I have worked hard to keep New Zealanders safe," director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking today.
"It's clear ... we didn't meet expectations and I'm sorry about that."
Bloomfield admitted he did not know how many people had left quarantine hotels without being tested before Tuesday.
The mainstay of protecting the border was 14 days of isolation, he said. "We have had managed isolation for several months ... we added the testing at level 1. It didn't get implemented as well as it could have."
Bloomfield's comments came as two women - who travelled here from the UK - were allowed out of isolation at an Auckland hotel early and without being tested. They made a road-trip to Wellington and took Covid tests there that turned out positive.
Despite initially saying they had not contacted anyone on their road-trip, it was revealed yesterday that they came into contact with at least two friends who helped them after they became lost on the Auckland motorway.
An Auckland gym member is believed to be one of the friends who "kissed and hugged" the women after helping them.
According to a Facebook post by Felicia Alkin, the owner of Lioness Gym, the unnamed member was in contact with the two women on Saturday and did not know they were positive until Tuesday afternoon.
National MP Michael Woodhouse earlier revealed that the pair, who travelled from London to New Zealand and arrived on June 10, borrowed a car but had to meet friends for help with directions after getting lost.
On Hosking's show today, Bloomfield repeated that he was "sorry" for the slip-up with the border issues that allowed the two women with Covid to roam free.
"We had processes in place ... clearly there was a gap in implementation. That gap is now closed," he said.
Asked if the women had lied, he said they did not. He said they were distraught after losing a parent and were on their way to their only remaining parent.
Public health officials often did follow-up interviews which commonly elicited further information, he said.
The women had got lost, headed north on the motorway instead of south and asked for help from a friend.
The public health unit had found that out on Tuesday and did not let the MOH know until Wednesday as it thought it was not important information.
The test results for the women's friend were expected back today, Bloomfield said.
They initially didn't think the interaction with their friend was of note.
Bloomfield said there were questions about whether testing was voluntary; he said since Tuesday it had essentially been made mandatory - nobody would be considered low-risk unless they had a negative test.
"Since Tuesday everyone is tested before they go."
Former police commissioner Mike Bush and Air Commodore Digby Webb were chasing up every complaint or report about rule breaches such as mixing and mingling among isolated or quarantined hotel guests.
Any reports of mixing and mingling would be investigated by police, he said.
Testing of people leaving managed isolation had only been implemented in level 1 - there had been several months of people in managed isolation for 14 days in hotels without being tested before that.
Last night the Ministry of Health confirmed the two women had "limited physical contact with the two friends for approximately five minutes".
The ministry said the two who helped had since been tested for Covid-19 and were in self-isolation. Officials are tracing as many as 320 people as a result of the positive tests of the UK pair, who were given leave from managed isolation by health staff to drive to the capital after a parent had died.
Parliament was told the women got lost and needed directions. They gave their helper a "kiss and a cud...
Read more