Government deserves scrutiny over border testing failures

In the main the Government has managed the Covid pandemic very well, especially compared to many other countries.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has handled communications very effectively most of the time. But she and her Government seem too have dropped the ball over botched border facility testing, and she is now trying to avoid taking responsibility.

If David Clark was still Minister of health he would likely have been widely condemned and probably sacked over the failures. But his successor Chris Hipkins is trying to deflect responsibility, and shift attention to fixing the problems while downplaying the problems, how they came about and who should be held responsible.

Political opponents have justifiably been trying to hold the Government to account.

NZ Herald: Winston Peters claims mystery Rydges case is a ‘second border breach’ as 97 per cent of MIQ workers tested

All staff and guests are being re-tested at the Auckland border hotel where a maintenance worker has tested positive for Covid-19 as mystery hangs over how he got infected.

It comes on top of the massive exercise to test every frontline border worker in an effort to track down the source of the Americold outbreak which is on track to be the largest cluster yet.

But so far the sources of the latest mystery case and the Americold cluster remain unknown, despite the Deputy Prime Minister saying there’d been “a second border breach” and someone should be sacked.

Winston Peters said the Health Minister was accountable for the failure in testing at the border, but he was not responsible so shouldn’t resign and neither should the director general of health.

“What you have to do though is find out where the direction was followed and if it wasn’t followed, why, and if it’s inadequate in terms of an answer then that person must go – it’s that simple.”

I agree with him on this.

Government Minister Megan Woods said the results of the re-tests of Rydges staff and guests would be known today.

“We have a case of a singular worker who has contracted the virus,” Woods told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking today. “We are still trying to track down why. We know from the genome sequencing it’s not connected to the cluster that’s happening in Auckland at the moment.”

“It’s not the border leaking. We can’t even establish a person-to-person contact for how this man did contract this. We have gone through very methodically, through all the evidence, about where he was as a maintenance worker, what rooms he was in. There is absolutely no evidence this is a border leak. Obviously something has happened – we will continue to chase it down.”

Woods is trying to downplay this with ‘singular’ but this is a serious concern.

Actually if it isn’t a border leak it must be more community spread with the source unknown, which is even more concerning.

Newsroom: Government feels the heat over border testing

Then it was Hipkins’ turn to face the music, highlighting “incredible surge testing” in the week since Covid-19 was detected in the community while also acknowledging “that testing of staff working at our border has been too slow”.

“It has not met the very clear expectations of the minister, the decisions that Cabinet has made were not implemented in a timely or a robust manner, and that is disappointing and frustrating.”

National’s finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith, a rare strong performer for the party during the pandemic, had the first opportunity for the Opposition to respond, and from the outset tried to use Jacinda Ardern’s own words against her.

“The Prime Minister said, back in April, the last thing we want to do is to yo-yo back into lockdown. We were told we went hard and early and we stayed longer in lockdown the first time, those additional hard weeks, because we wanted to avoid a yo-yo back into lockdown, and here we are again…

“So that’s why it’s been so puzzling and, frankly, annoying to many New Zealanders when they’ve seen so many elements of the border being dealt with in a loose fashion despite all the talk.”

There was “complete disjuncture and confusion in the Government” on the issue of testing at the border, Goldsmith said, coupled with complacency.

“We’ve got through the initial lockdown, they sat back and said: ‘Yes, we’ve done it, we’ve smashed it, we’ve crushed it’ – there was an element of self-congratulation – and the preparation for the possibility of another community lockdown does not appear to have been properly prepared for.”

The line clearly struck a nerve: Ardern usually refrains from interjections, yet on this occasion yelled from across the chamber: “When we prepared, you said we were scaremongering.”

But ACT leader David Seymour continued on the theme of the Government’s ill-preparedness, arguing it had “chose[n] to spend time doing a little dance and engaging in a victory lap” instead of mending the holes which appear to have been exposed by the latest outbreak.

Question Time saw National try to home in on the outstanding questions around the border testing regime, leader Judith Collins going head to head with Ardern before deputy leader Gerry Brownlee took on Housing Minister Megan Woods and National’s health spokesperson Shane Reti squared up against Hipkins.

This is what Question Time in Parliament should be used for, holding the Government to account for failures, and in this case serious failures that has led to an outbreak of Covid, people becoming sick with some hospitalised, many businesses severely affected by increased lockdowns, and impacts on the lives of all of us, especially those in Auckland.

Michael Morrah (Newshub): Senior quarantine whistleblower says staff were refused regular testing programme despite pleas

A senior quarantine official has blown the whistle on the border-testing botch-up.

He says claims that staff were reluctant to be tested are not correct – and that workers requested a regular testing programme “multiple times”, but their concerns were ignored.

“They haven’t taken our protection or the wider community’s protection seriously by not having a testing programme,” he tells Newshub.

The worker, who’s been at the airport ten years, says frontline staff requested a regular testing programme “multiple times”, but management declined this.

“Just [got] told it wasn’t available, or they didn’t have the resources to do it,” he says.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says “they should not have been declined tests”.

And Biosecurity New Zealand Northern Regional Commissioner Mike Inglis says they’ve “made sure that we’ve encouraged staff to be tested”.

“At any point if a staff member feels ill they’ve been told to stay at home,” he adds.

And Newshub can reveal that in the past month, at least 18 Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) staff, who interacted with returnees, have been sent from the airport to work in other parts of Auckland and other cities – all without a COVID-19 test.

It was on June 23 that the Government announced its border testing strategy. But no such strategy was ever put in place.

“As for regular testing, there was nothing,” the quarantine official says.

The Government, particularly Hipkins and Ardern, can’t just gloss over this.

But the Prime Minister says some workers didn’t want tests.

“We have picked up on reluctance among staff,” Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show.

National leader Judith Collins says Ardern is “entirely wrong”.

And Newshub’s insider says staff have not been reluctant.

“Definitely false. Staff were upfront wanting tests and were making themselves available for them,” the official says.

Those representing staff like the front of house workers and room attendants at managed isolation hotels say they too have not resisted tests.

“The issue has not been from our members, or our workers getting in the way of testing at all,” says Unite Union national secretary Gerard Hehir.

He says if a policy is announced, it must be implemented.

“It shows the danger of policy by press release, that actually there needs to be follow-through,” he says.

In Parliament yesterday Ardern said that Covid shouldn’t be politicised – but management of the pandemic is inextricably linked to politics. Ardern spent much of her election campaign launch speech promoting her management of Covid. She can’t use it for political purposes when it suits her but claim it isn’t political when things turn to custard.

I agree with the decision to delay the election, but a bonus from that is that Parliament is back in action, which is allowing the Government to be held to account over their handling of Covid, especially the badly botched border testing.

And media deserve credit also for investigating and highlighting some of the problems, especially Michael Morrah from Newshub.

Leave a comment

45 Comments

  1. duperez

     /  19th August 2020

    I hear there has been a ‘total failure at the border.’

    Total, absolute. complete. 100% or comprehensive? Well it was Judth Collins talking so I suppose it’s the lot of those. At least there are some who won’t have to worry about an insult to their intelligence at the nonsense.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  19th August 2020

      Failure at the border…. most likely but we dont know the direct cause yet. was it isolation hotels, was airport workers , was it airline crew , was it port workers ?
      So many was its ?
      The hotel maintenance worker was picked up by a test and thats not the same strain of covid that all the others in the cluster belong to.

      Reply
  2. John J Harrison

     /  19th August 2020

    Pete, great post.
    Could not believe today’s Dominion Post and the NZ Herald, both totally out of the Ardern cult clan – at last!
    Even the Dominion’s cartoon was positively anti- Labour, a first for years.
    What I enjoyed most was the clinical way the Herald’s journalists took apart the lies we have been subject to by Ardern, Bloomfield, Woods, Hipkins, Webb and Bush.
    Here was the clincher for me.
    The Herald had a time- line of the most blatant lie.
    On June 23rd we were assured that regular asymptotic testing of border – facing workers was taking place by the “ pulpit of truth.”
    The Herald notes that Ardern repeatedly gave the impression that this was being done right up until last Thursday.
    The Herald then notes that these assurances have been exposed as COMPLETELY UNTRUE.
    In other words we have been continually lied to while “ our team of 5 million “ have been making huge personal and financial sacrifices our beloved ( to some remaining Labour luvvies ) leaders have been proved to have systematically failed on all counts.
    When the opposition do their job of holding the government to account – as they did yesterday in the House, Ardern bleats that they should not play politics with Covid.
    This is the same frowning, hand waving Ardern who declared this to be a Covid election.
    Well it had to be as they had zero policies to enunciate.
    At last the once tame media , daily echoing the Labour Party line is realizing that , like us , they have been used and abused.
    There is now zero trust in the “ single source of truth “ from the daily “ bully pulpit.”
    FANTASTIC.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  19th August 2020

      The government was misled about how much testing of staff was being done, even Bloomfield doesnt even have known about the poor compliance.

      The trouble it seems to be the people doing the testing are run by Auckland Regional Public health , ARPHS a quasi independent group funded by all 3 Auckland DHBS.
      So they arent under control of Ministry nor directly of any single DHB

      Reply
      • David

         /  19th August 2020

        So the PM makes a speech standing alongside the DG of health saying everyone will be tested but this doesnt happen because of organisational structures !
        So when it becomes public and everyone who should have been tested is tested within 48 hours under the same organisational structure that is somehow a great effort from the government.
        They stuffed up, again.

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  19th August 2020

        Give me a break, Duker. The buck stops with the government. They of all people should know how unreliable bureaucrats are. They should had double checked everything.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  19th August 2020

          Blaming some one …anyone has been used before even as late as 2016
          https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2016/08/john-key-blames-helen-clark-for-housing-crisis.html
          “John Key, and especially Steven Joyce, were “exceptionally skilled at deflecting responsibility”, she said. “Part of Key’s skillset was he did this while never coming over as bitter or cross – voters were more willing to accept (or at least not reject) the deflection on those terms. Under Key, voters accepted that issues were hard, tricky, intractable – all reasons to lower expectations of what the government could do or what responsibility it had in practice. (Think GFC.)”
          https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/21-11-2018/announced-the-date-after-which-blaming-the-last-government-is-banned/

          Even when Key moved on to his new job as Chairman of ANZ…
          “Key blames a junior staffer as press conference moves on to the ANZ breaking the Reserve Bank’s minimum capital rules”
          Except its a specific item that the board has to sign off

          Reply
        • When it seemed that C19 was gone from NZ, the PM and CoL gladly accepted the adulation and sycophantic cries of St Jacinda being NZ’s saviour. Pass the bucket.

          Now their incompetence has let it back in, but that is somehow not their fault.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  19th August 2020

            Are you saying you were part of the adulations ?
            Pleeese , you were moaning even about that!
            ungrateful you could go about your life unhindered for many months.
            You werent giving any compliments, in fact you continued your slurs on Ardern non stop

            Reply
            • Of course I am not claiming to be adulatory, still less an ‘adulation’ (look up the meaning of this word) Adulation cannot be a plural.

              The being Covid free was not an achievement of the PM alone. although the fawning sycophancy seemed to be saying that it was. Of course I wasn’t giving compliments. I am not that naive. Had border testing and isolation happened at the beginning, we would not have needed the savage lockdowns.

              I couldn’t go about my life unhindered for many months, if you mean during lockdown. No one could. That’s the nature of lockdown. Do try to keep up. Did you not notice that the country was under house arrest during that time ? What did you think was happening ?

              What ‘slurs’ did I make ?

              You are resorting to personal abuse again. It’s very tiresome.

  3. Conspiratoor

     /  19th August 2020

    Jacinda and her merry band of incompetents have laid the groundwork for a first class shambles

    Expected into Auckland alone today 7 flights from Australia, 3 from USA, 4 from China, 1 each from Singers and Indonesia. If you extrapolate that out to 2 weeks and assume these planes are only half full you’ve got 33,000 ‘returning kiwis and the odd exception’ including afghan kids and 501s

    Compare that with a national quarantine capacity of 7,600 and you appear to have a fairly significant number of ‘rare exceptions’ who just might have a valid reason to bypass quarantine

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  19th August 2020

      Theres a daily limit of passengers allowed to arrive in Auckland , just like Australian cities do.
      Some flights carry virtually no passengers as they are primarily cargo flights
      There will never be 33,000 arrivals in next 2 weeks, you are extrapolating nonsense and spreading false rumours
      The maximum number this month was 611 on Aug 11, average is more like 400 per day as Aug 17 was 210
      https://www.newsroom.co.nz/daily-charts

      Reply
  4. Blazer

     /  19th August 2020

    Govt is responsible for overall strategy to cope with this crisis.

    Implementation is the task of the authorised agencies .

    Their performance or lack of is the issue.

    Reply
    • John J Harrison

       /  19th August 2020

      Blazer, utter crap.
      The buck stops with Ardern.
      She should stop continually lying to us as noted the both today’s Dominion Post and NZ Herald.
      Or have both papers plus TV3 and ZB got it all wrong ?

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  19th August 2020

        John,I say John…..look at the alternative!

        The National Party could not even run their own candidate selection for Auckland central within their own rules.

        Very uninspiring,reactive players.

        Reply
        • John J Harrison

           /  19th August 2020

          Blazer, is it correct that Ardern insisted that this be “ the Covid election “ and “ judge us by our deeds “?
          All we now see is Ardern whining that the opposition are holding her to account and not to make Covid “ political.”
          Utterly pathetic !

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  19th August 2020

            John …the consequences of the Christchurch earthquake are still…unresolved…hopeless.

            Reply
          • Kimbo

             /  19th August 2020

            @ Blazer

            Dysfunctional MoH somehow floating free in your telling of any government and ministerial accountability, National Party selections and Chch earthquakes?! Three successive whataboutisms?

            Try four for four and raise Rob Muldoon and Think Big and the 1981 Springbok Tour, because you are on a real roll here. 😳😂

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  19th August 2020

              Not MoH ….do try to keep up
              Covid testing at Auckland is done by ARPHS who are sort of ( loosely) controlled by 3x DHBs… in effect they are accountable to no one.

            • Kimbo

               /  19th August 2020

              Nobody is ever “accountable to no one”, and if they aren’t in a crisis like this then it is an intolerable situation for the government to have allowed that to occur with anyone in the chain.

              But good to see you now broadening your running-interference repertoire out from whataboutism to nit-picking. Further points will be added by the judges if you can seamlessly segue into straw-manning, argument from absurdity and the dog ate Jacinda’s homework. 😂

            • Also, John Key didn’t say on television that he must be held accountable and that the next election was an earthquake one.

              The PM has said more than once that we were to judge or hold her accountable and that this was a Covid election. Now it’s one in a way that she doesn’t like, and suddenly Covid shouldn’t be political.

            • Duker

               /  19th August 2020

              I pointed out Key was continuing his evasion of accountability even after becoming Chairman of ANZ here….. old habits

            • Your opinion and completely irrelevant to the current situation and this post.

              Do try to keep up.

            • Blazer

               /  19th August 2020

              Kimbo….it is quite reasonable to suggest that a party that cannot run its own internal protocols correctly would struggle to handle a…crisis like Covid.

            • Kimbo

               /  20th August 2020

              Not when the initial subject – which you initiated! – is the government’s competence and responsibilities, or lack thereof as per the subsequent rebuttal. As before, raising the topic of the Opposition in that context is a classic whataboutism logical fallacy and distraction.

  5. Jack

     /  19th August 2020

    Jacinda tries it both ways as Pete highlights. Anyone else in that position would acknowledge they are mincemeat .
    The advice of a body language expert would be interesting. Her fingers running over her folded paper looked like a little girl about to burst into tears. Jacinda has a way of garnering sympathy for herself no matter what. But she’s looking repetitive – not much communicative creativity left in her tank.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  19th August 2020

      I am a body language expert.

      There is no substance to your observations.

      Reply
      • Jack

         /  19th August 2020

        Blazer….oh darling B…. I am an expert in spiritual matters. I’m a fool for biting and…You are a blody expert in…. selfishness.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  19th August 2020

          dahling!!

          ‘Jack and Jill went up the hill
          to fetch a bucket of ..shyte..
          Jack fell down…got covered in..brown and
          Jill ran away with a kite.’

          Reply
          • Jack

             /  19th August 2020

            Appears some here read my books… and some…..not…
            I’m told that you get to the end and realise, oh I was a Christian all along.
            The churches have been telling it wrong.

            You know how if a person says “it’s no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me” and your reaction is – arrogance!….
            Arrogance oozes from Jacinda – many cannot see that, b/c Kiwis are hazy about what is a Christian. The churches have not been telling you straight.

            Reply
            • Jack

               /  19th August 2020

              Not many people say that of course. Just a few, like me. We don’t need many Kiwis talking that way. But we do need Christian politicians.

              Bee is a commie
              Just a wee….
              ….flea….
              ….like me
              The only way to combat political Socialism is for Kiwis to know what is a Christian.

            • Blazer

               /  19th August 2020

              No one reads your…books.

    • duperez

       /  19th August 2020

      When we’re getting into ‘little girl about to burst into tears’ we indeed in 7-9 year old girl territory.

      Reply
      • Jack

         /  19th August 2020

        Exactly. Don’t do it Dupe.
        Jacinda is close. Wait and see.
        No shame in a few tears anyway.
        Be kind.
        When push comes to shove (little boys responses to losing arguments) Socialists turn to cruelty. Your responses here to myself and others show you up.
        No shame in being a Christian either. Perhaps you are – you just need encouragement – adult territory.

        Reply
        • duperez

           /  19th August 2020

          “Her fingers running over her folded paper looked like a little girl about to burst into tears.”

          Given the tone of the comments there’d be no surprise if you were taking bets about whether she’d cry. were you jeering at her on the TV? Listening to every inflection in case there was something to grab onto?

          When push comes to shove ‘socialists turn to cruelty’? I’m not sorry to point out childishness. That’s cruelty? Hard case when those who toss ‘lefty snowflake’ with abandon around feel cruelty in having their inanity pointed out.

          Reply
          • Jack

             /  19th August 2020

            Never occurred to me that Jacinda is a Lefty snowflake. I think she’s strong.
            She, and you, are just wrong that’s all.
            Yesterday you asked us all what we would do…
            If I was in Judith’s shoes, or Gerry’s, I would make Jacinda cry.
            Jeer at a TV? Bizarre Dups. You do not know the tone of comments here, and look whose imagination runs wild.

            Reply
      • No, Jack said that her body language was like this.

        Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  19th August 2020

    Of course to the “faithful” every government failure to perform or tell the truth is somehow due to “nine years of neglect”.

    The solution to every problem is more tax, regulation and bureaucrats to manage it all because ordinary people are too stupid to manage their own lives.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  19th August 2020

      No this failure isnt due to 9 years of neglect …there is a whole string of failures due to that.
      Its a way of comparing 9 years of poor administration with current circumstances.
      National ministers couldnt even organise a trip to China without screwing up… but wait that was Judith Collins. She also failed on the boy racers as 3 cars were crushed and then gave up as too hard, always its was ‘operational problem with ministry’ as they blamed others.

      In this case the ARPHS boss should be taken to the town square in a tumbril- Dr William Rainger
      https://www.arphs.health.nz/about-us/our-team/

      Reply
      • Nothing National did was on this scale. NOTHING.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  19th August 2020

          Pike River … and before that in the previous national government Cave Creek tragedy.
          Royal Commsion report on Pike River disaster
          Chapter 22 covers the decline of the Mines Inspectors

          5 The two extractives inspectors in 2009–10, Michael Firmin and Kevin Poynter, did not have hydro-mining expertise, themethod used by two main underground coal mines, Pike River and Spring Creek.
          30. Underground coal mines tended not to be inspected by inspectors with other skills. This meant that neither mechanical inspectors nor those with expertise in workplace fatigue were inspecting underground coal mines.36
          31. From 2009 DOL assumed increasing responsibility for electrical equipment inspection,37 but lacked the required expertise. By July 2011 it had appointed an electrical inspector, but he did not have coal mine electrical expertise.
          45. Nothing in the way inspectors carried out their duties meant that four inspections per year gave the same assurance as the previous average of 8.7
          50. Inspectors were not trained to audit mine systems,74 despite auditing being one of the prescribed areas of examination for a health and safety inspector.75 Nor did they have an audit tool.76 Mr Firmin said that auditing was ‘generally not something that anybody in the department, to my knowledge, does’.77 He recalled the mining
          inspectors raising the matter, but nothing came of it.78 Following the Pike tragedy, the government commissioned an urgent audit of underground coal mines using Australian experts, supported by DOL.
          53. The inspectors’ contact was often with the mine manager or operational management. For example, Mr Poynter had little contact with the health and safety manager at Pike, partly because of time pressure.83
          58. DOL received serious accident data from underground coal mines but did not analyse it to identify patterns.87 The inspectors lacked the time for this task and had not been trained to do so.88 Certain categories of high-potential incidents had to be notified to DOL,89 but it did not analyse them.90 Underground coal mine process safety data did not feature. DOL did not gather lead indicator data for underground coal mines.91
          ……and on and on

          The M Bovis outbreak was another where initially little was done, especially since the cattle tracing scheme implemented back when Jim Anderton was Agriculture Minister around 2008 hadnt been finalised when outbreak occured in 2017( because farmers couldnt be bothered and what farmers want farmers get under national.)
          “It appeared that perhaps 70% of farmers were not fully complying with the requirements since 2012 to track movements of cattle, particularly calves sold “for cash” Another possibility is the illegal importing of drugs by veterinary companies.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosecurity_in_New_Zealand
          No wonder the farmers didnt want records of cash transactions

          Same old same , loose border restrictions for veterinary companies

          Reply
          • John J Harrison

             /  19th August 2020

            Duker, for goodness sake , get a life.
            You have done nothing to assist your beloved Labour Party with your inane comments.
            The sun is over the yardarm, meaning you should be finishing your first bottle of plonk.
            Be kind, as our dear leader would say — ad nauseum!

            Reply
  7. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  19th August 2020

    This Government needs scrutiny over everything.
    They don’t know the law or the limits of their powers.
    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/08/coronavirus-first-nine-days-of-alert-level-4-were-unlawful-court-finds.html

    Reply

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