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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. TODD MULLER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Is it correct that on 20 May, daily COVID-19 situation reports, including the New Zealand border response, sent to Ministers, ended; if so, why?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): No.

Todd Muller: After 20 May, did she ask to regularly receive the sort of detailed information about the border, quarantine, and managed isolation which she had been receiving prior to that date?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: To the best of my knowledge, the daily reporting the member is referring to is the Ministry of Health daily situation report, which was circulated to a wide range of recipients. To assume that that was the only information received by the Government and Ministers is wrong. We received daily isolation reports that included information around individuals in quarantine and isolation. The COVID daily case reports—so, obviously, the cases that we had in New Zealand and testing numbers—I note for the member that that is also made publicly available each day. And, of course, Cabinet received weekly COVID dashboards reporting on things like lab capacity, testing results, PPE, and cases in New Zealand, and the number of people in managed isolation and quarantine.

Todd Muller: Did her regular reporting include how many tests were being carried out and how many tests needed to be carried out to ensure full coverage of those in quarantine and managed isolation facilities?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There was daily reporting on testing numbers. At one point, we did directly query the fact that our testing numbers were declining. You’ll recall yesterday in this House, for the member’s edification, I talked about our office seeking information of testing at at-risk places. That prompted the Ministry of Health to reconfirm to my office on 5 June that daily testing was occurring for day 3 and day 12 of those at the border, including everyone at facilities, starting from 8 June.

Todd Muller: Did her regular reporting include confirmation of people who are leaving managed isolation with testing as per her requirements of 8 June?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have said, we queried directly from the Ministry of Health what was being undertaken at the border. I note for the member that we did that before the protocol was even meant to be in place. They reconfirmed that it was occurring. If the member is trying to suggest that somehow we knew something was not happening, that is patently and factually incorrect.

Todd Muller: Was it a fact of the information being provided by her officials to her request for information that was incorrect?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I say, we were advised that the testing was happening twice during the period of quarantine—that anyone that came in after or before 8 June would be tested before leaving the facility. And, of course, the director-general confirmed that in public statements made, from my recollection, on 9 June as well.

Todd Muller: Is she saying she has been misled by her officials—essentially, they reported to her things that were happening that simply weren’t happening on the ground?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This is not a revelation or new information. We’ve consistently identified that there was a failure to act in practice on what was an expectation of Cabinet. But our responsibility is to fix that problem, which we have.

Todd Muller: Is she, essentially, saying that, from her perspective, the Government’s instructions were clear: officials had a job to do and they were left to do it without Ministers asking any regular questions or receiving regular reports?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I again reject the premise of the question. As he will have heard me say in the House yesterday, we directly—again—queried with the Ministry of Health the testing regime to be in place, and that, of course, included the border, and received a response confirming the testing we had an expectation would be happening starting from 8 June. I think this is an opportunity for me to mention to the House, though, that since that time, we’ve had over 5,000 tests happening across our quarantines and managed isolation.

Todd Muller: Does she accept that this comes down to two scenarios: either her officials misled her, or she and her Ministers haven’t been doing their job and haven’t been asking the right questions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This comes down to a scenario of the fact that we still have—still have—some of the most stringent requirements in the world. We still have cases contained at the border. And in a world where we have record COVID cases being reported daily—record cases—we are still in a position where New Zealanders should feel rightly proud of the work they did to get us here.