Is people leaving isolation a big deal?

Obviously if someone in isolation breaks the rules and gets out, and if they have the Covid-19 virus, it’s a fairly big deal. One person who got out this week and visited a supermarket put potentially many people at risk, they caused a supermarket to shut down and do extensive cleaning, and that resulted in many employees going into precautionary self isolation.

But is it too much to expect that with thousands of people in isolation in hotels (not prisons) that a few won’t choose to break the rules?

Perhaps we have to accept that a few escapes are inevitable, and as long as there are comprehensive systems in place to deal with it when it happens we should be reasonably comfortable with what is being done.

But this is an ongoing awkwardness for the Government.

When two women were let out of isolation without being tested – and tested positive after travelling from Auckland to Wellington – the army involvement in managing isolsation and quarantine facilities.  Megan Woods (name corrected) was also installed to cover for the poorly performing Minister of Health David Clark.

Things kept going wrong, people kept getting out.

Clark resigned and Chris Hipkins took over. He handles media interviews much better, and seems to bo on top of the details of the job much better, but people still got out.

The police were called in facilities 24/7, but people kept getting out.

Four people this week left isolation, despite a lot of publicity and public angst and anger.

Is this just something we can expect may keep happening?

The last person who got out, by cutting fence ties and going to buy some booze ended up in prison. Was this a fair warning to all others in isolation, or was it draconian, especially compared to previous consequences for absconders?

 

What changed to prompt David Clark’s resignation now?

David Clark offered his resignation as Minister of Health in April, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern because of the Covid-19 pandemic it was necessary to retain him in the role.Clark said yesterday:

You will recall that I offered my resignation during the Level Four lockdown in response to mistakes I made in a personal capacity.

The Prime Minister made it clear at the time – that under normal circumstances – she would have accepted that resignation, but she did not want significant disruption to the health system in the middle of the emergency response.

As recently as last Friday she said Clark would stay on as Minister until the election. Clark had also said he would stay on.

But yesterday Clark resigned. What changed to prompt this?

There have been conflicting claims by Clark and Ardern.

Newshub: PM Jacinda Ardern was pushing David Clark out as Health Minister while publicly saying he’d stay until election

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was pushing David Clark out as Health Minister while publicly saying he would stay on until the September election. 

Dr Clark resigned as Health Minister on Thursday saying he had “made the call that it is best for me to stand aside” because he had become a “distraction”.

“He reached the conclusion his ongoing presence in the health role was causing too much distraction to the Government’s response to COVID-1 – an assessment I agree with,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

My guess is that internal polls indicated that Clark staying on was detrimental to Labour’s re-election chances.

The distractions have been abundant. The lockdown breaches: moving house, the drive to the beach with his family, and that mountain bike ride – prompting Dr Clark’s first resignation offer in April.

“It was bloody obvious to me at that point I felt like a complete dick,” he told The AM Show at the time.

The Prime Minister responded with a threat to Dr Clark’s job.

“Under normal circumstances I would sack the minister,” she said at the time.

With those eight words, the Prime Minister delivered Dr Clark a fate worse than sacking – stripping him of the authority to do his job.

Clark already didn’t seem to be acting authoritatively, and this emphasised that.

After that Clark seemed determined to stay on in the job.

“I am certainly very keen to get on with this,” he told Newshub Nation in June.

The Prime Minister doubled down in Queenstown last Friday when asked if Dr Clark would hold onto his job until the election at least.

“Of course, that is what I’ve continued to say.”

But we now know that around that same time late last week the Prime Minister was edging Dr Clark out.

That would mean that Ardern was deliberately misleading the public.

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if she in any way insinuated or suggested to Dr Clark that she wanted him to offer his resignation.

“No, it was a very open conversation,” she said.

And in that “very open conversation” the Prime Minister gave him the kiss of death – making it clear he was becoming a distraction so close to an election.

Ardern was asked if she had raised with Dr Clark that he was becoming a distraction.

“We had a general discussion around what was needed to put the country first and our COVID response first,” she said.

As for why she didn’t just sack Dr Clark, Ardern said: “My focus has been COVID all the way through – our response to COVID. Those early days, continuity was the most important thing.”

In yesterday’s prepared speech announcing “This morning I have formally tendered my resignation as Minister of Health” Clark defended his performance, praised his performance and electioneered.

The Prime Minister made it clear at the time – that under normal circumstances – she would have accepted that resignation, but she did not want significant disruption to the health system in the middle of the emergency response.

We still have a health emergency, and him resigning is still a significant disruption.

But it has not always been plain sailing and I wish to put on record again that I take full responsibility for the decisions made and taken during my time as Minister of Health.

It’s on the record that he didn’t take full responsibility, and again here he carefully avoids taking direct responsibility – “the decisions made and taken during my time as Minister of Health” implies decisions made by others, there is no personal ownership of his decisions and actions – and just as critical, his lack of decision making and oversight of his ministry.

I’ve always taken the view that the interests of the team must come first, and New Zealand’s COVID response is simply too important, so I have made the call that it is best for me to stand aside.

Now is the right time to hand over the reins, and move forward with new leadership.

The time is now right to hand over to another Minister …

So an already very busy minister and Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, has taken over as Minister of Health, one of the biggest jobs in Government at any time and especially during a pandemic.

Loading Hipkins with even more responsibilities has been deemed preferable to leaving Clark in the role.

Was Clark that inadequate? Perhaps he was.

But it seems that in saying “the interests of the team must come first” Clark may be referring to the Labour team, not the team of 5 million that Ardern keeps referring to.

It probably makes little difference whether Clark jumped or was dumped, but the explanations from him and Ardern have not been convincing.

Ardern’s ability to make tough decisions regarding poorly performing ministers is also not convincing.

 

David Clark’s resignation from health portfolio

So David Clark resigned as Minister of Health today after the Prime Minister accepted his resignation this time (Jacinda Ardern declined his offer to resign in April, and said last week he would remain in the job until the election).

A lot has been said about all this, but this is what Clark has said about it:

This morning I have formally tendered my resignation as Minister of Health, which was accepted by the Prime Minister.

Serving as Minister of Health has been an absolute privilege – particularly through these extraordinary last few months.

It’s no secret that Health is a challenging portfolio. I have given it my all.

But it has become increasingly clear to me that my continuation in the role is detracting from the Government’s overall response to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

You will recall that I offered my resignation during the Level Four lockdown in response to mistakes I made in a personal capacity.

The Prime Minister made it clear at the time – that under normal circumstances – she would have accepted that resignation, but she did not want significant disruption to the health system in the middle of the emergency response.

I’ve always taken the view that the interests of the team must come first, and New Zealand’s COVID response is simply too important, so I have made the call that it is best for me to stand aside.

We have now shifted to a more stable footing with no evidence of community transmission with the focus shifting to containing the virus at the border, it is appropriate for me to move on.

I could not be more impressed with how New Zealanders and our health system responded to COVID-19.
The response from health workers at the frontline has been astonishing, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all the medical, nursing and allied health staff who put themselves on the line to keep us all safe.

Alongside the sacrifices made by ordinary New Zealanders, your combined efforts have put us in a position that is the envy of the world.

The results do speak for themselves.

In global terms our low hospitalisation and mortality rate is a testament to the strength of our health system and its workers.

Despite more than 80,000 tests in the past two weeks, the only cases we are identifying are at our borders.

That is how the system is supposed to work.

Because it has worked, we are now on a more stable footing. New Zealand’s health system continues to build capacity to keep the virus at bay.

Now is the right time to hand over the reins, and move forward with new leadership.

It has been a privilege to serve in this role and lead the work to rebuild our public health system.

We have made record investments in funding for DHBs, record investments in capital spending to rebuild our run-down hospitals and health facilities.

We’ve made doctors’ visits cheaper for more than half a million Kiwis and free up to the age of 14.
We’ve made historic investments into our mental health services, including sorting out pay for mental health support workers.
We have hired more than 2000 more nurses – and increased their pay.
We’ve established the Cancer Control Agency, Te Aho o te Kahu – quite aside from the day to day challenges in managing the system, these are significant achievements.
It has been a busy but rewarding three years and I leave the role proud of all that we have achieved in that time.
But it has not always been plain sailing and I wish to put on record again that I take full responsibility for the decisions made and taken during my time as Minister of Health.
Although ministers are generally advised against being publicly effusive about public servants, I want to again put on the record that it has been an honour to work alongside an exceptional Director-General in Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Thank you Ashley and your team for the extraordinary work you have done for our country during our most serious health crisis in over a century.
The time is now right to hand over to another Minister to drive forward the changes proposed in the Health and Disability System Review ably led by Heather Simpson.
It is my sincere hope that a re-elected Labour-led Government will drive forward that agenda and that we continue to build a health service that is available and accessible to all New Zealanders, no matter who they are, where they are, or how deep their pocket.
With this decision comes the freedom to spend more time serving as a constituent MP.

I remain committed to the Labour Party, and to my electorate. So come the General Election on September 19 I will again be asking the people of Dunedin for their continued support to serve them as their local MP.

I think I’ll just lave it at that.

Newshub Nation – Clark, polls, NZ First-Green relationship

David Clark – resignation or sacking?

David Clark has often been shielded from media and public scrutiny for good reasons. He has been widely regarded as out of his depth as Minister of Health, hapless (hopeless may be a bit strong).

But yesterday for some reason he did a number of media interviews – see Claytons responsibility Clark, Bloomfield, bus. Did he decide to repeatedly avoid any responsibility for the problems dealing with Covid, especially isolation and quarantine, and point the blame at his Ministry and the Director General Ashley Bloomfield? At one stage in front of Bloomfield?

Or was he let loose by his minders knowing he was likely to politically self destruct?

Notably fellow MP and Minister Willie Jackson joined in the dumping on Clark, as did Labour Party stalwart Greg Presland.

Perhaps Clark will be dragged back under cover, hoping the train wreck won’t be noticed amongst the rest of the bad news for the Government – it was confirmed yesterday that Light Rail was now officially off the tracks at least until the election, and Greens and NZ First traded blows.

Has the Government has been containing the shambles long enough for Colmar Brunton to finish their latest round of polling? That ended yesterday, results are expected tonight.

Clark seems intent on keeping his job, despite his reputation tattering even more.

A sacking would be a bit of a distraction from the onslaught of bad news, but is Jacinda Ardern up to dumping a long time colleague and friend of herself and Grant Robertson?


Toby Manhire: David Clark is not responsible

A minister of health with a humility bypass creates a problem for Jacinda Ardern – especially when he’s contrasted with Ashley Bloomfield, writes Toby Manhire.

With the cadence of a fingernail sliding down a blackboard, David Clark spent much of yesterday declining to accept responsibility.

No doubt Clark feels on thin ice after admitting to being “an idiot” and getting bounced down to the bottom rank of Cabinet for breaking the lockdown rules. That must have sucked. But accepting some ministerial responsibility doesn’t mean resigning – it is necessarily something that is proportional to whatever it is for which responsibility is being taken. And the principle of ministerial responsibility does not magically exclude “operational matters”. A 2013 Labour Party press release from then shadow leader of the house and now speaker Trevor Mallard welcomed a speaker’s ruling on parliamentary questions with the headline, “Ministers are responsible for operational matters”.

“Operational matters” aren’t a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. “Operational matters” can be substituted in most sentences for “things that happened”.

Usually invoked in relation to police or justice matters, the concept is useful to determine when a politician should stay the hell out of an “operational matter” to avoid inappropriate influence.

Turns out, in fact, Clark has not once – not once – visited an isolation facility in person. Truly he is unblemished by the operation.

For Clark, the writing looked mostly on the wall the day that prime minister said she’d have fired him if they weren’t in the middle of a crisis. It’s unimaginable that he’d get the health portfolio back were Labour re-elected. The more pressing question for the prime minister is whether he’s a liability on the campaign trail.

Claytons responsibility Clark, Bloomfield, bus

Newshub: Health Minister David Clark brutally throws Dr Ashley Bloomfield under the bus while standing right next to him

Health Minister David Clark has brutally thrown Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield under the bus while standing right next to him, after the Government’s quarantine testing botch-up.

Dr Clark pointed blame at the Director-General as they stood next to each other in Wellington on Wednesday.

Newshub’s footage captured Dr Bloomfield’s face after Dr Clark told reporters, “The Director-General has accepted that the protocol wasn’t being followed. He has accepted responsibility for that.”

Newshub asked the Health Minister why he won’t take some of the responsibility.

“The Director-General has already acknowledged that the system didn’t deliver here.”

Dr Clark shouldn’t be so quick to lay blame.

If Dr Bloomfield hadn’t been forced to step up as a de facto Health Minister during the COVID-19 response because Dr Clark was AWOL, perhaps Dr Bloomfield would’ve been able to focus on his actual job – running the operational side of things.

National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse suggested there has been a breakdown in the relationship between Dr Clark and Dr Bloomfield.

“We’ve seen from the body language over the last couple of weeks that the relationship between the Minister of Health and the Director-General has deteriorated.”

But Dr Bloomfield has denied that’s the case.

From Checkpoint on RNZ:

Image

Image

 

Clark is not smart enough to distance himself as much as possible from this as his Prime Minister seems to have done. Seems to be pass the parcel from the top down.


This just in:

 

Ministers versus Bishop

Two Ministers outed the constituent work of Chris Biship, National MP for Hut South, in Parliament today.

From 5. Question No. 5—Health:

Hon Chris Hipkins: Were the two women who tested positive for COVID-19 this week released from quarantine following personal representations advocating their early release from quarantine by National MP Chris Bishop?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am aware of that. Obviously, there have been representations made for compassionate leave from members of Parliament. I think people need to be very careful because these are sensitive matters, necessarily—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Sorry, I’m going to hear the rest of this answer in silence. It’s a very serious allegation that’s been made here, and I want to hear the answer.

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Yes, I am aware of that, and I just would ask members to be careful around these situations. On the one hand, people have been requiring or requesting that people be let go early out of these situations. On the other hand, we’ve seen the risks that that presents to New Zealanders and the team of 5 million and their efforts so far.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’d like you to reflect on your commentary about the question from the Hon Chris Hipkins as being a “serious allegation”. It kind of injects the Speaker into the question time in a way that a value judgment of that question might not stand scrutiny. Mr Bishop’s advocacy for those people did not infer that an unsafe process should be followed, and the fact that you have, effectively, commented on the fact that it’s a “serious allegation” is probably unhelpful—it’s certainly unhelpful.

SPEAKER: Well, if—sorry, I should have said it’s a serious matter and not a serious allegation, and I’m not absolutely certain that the member’s point of order has diminished it. But I will reflect on that.

Stuff:  Claims in Parliament National MP lobbied for leave for sisters who have Covid-19

NZ Herald: Two women let out after National MP lobbied for release

Both headlines look misleading, it doesn’t appear to have been lobbying.

And the Herald headline may be even more misleading. There is no indication that the women were “let out” as a result of what Bishop did.

Bishop has responded:

Some responses (from neutral and left leaners):

I wonder what the Prime Minister thinks of this happening while she wasn’t in Parliament.

Quarantine debacle escalates as Woodhouse allegations confirmed

Widespread anger was expressed after it was revealed that tow women who were granted a compassionate exemption from quarantine travelled from Auckland to Wellington on Saturday before testing positive for Covid-19, breaking a 24 day run of no new cases in New Zealand.

In a show of no confidence in the Ministry of Health handling of quarantines Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appointed a military leader to review and oversee the quarantining.

A number of people came claiming poor procedures in quarantine.

It turns out that testing of people arriving in the country from overseas were not required to be tested, it was optional.

But it gets worse. It appears that the public have been misled after an allegation made by National spokesperson on health Michael Woodhouse that the exempted women didn’t travel from Auckland to Wellington with no contact with anyone has been confirmed.  Apparently they got lost on the Auckland motorway and met up with friends.

Yesterday Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield did not front up to media, instead emailing a statement (there was no update posted on the Covid website).

From The Spinoff live updates:

On yesterday’s cases, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said in an emailed update, “As director general of health, I have overall system responsibility for the health operations of our self-isolation facilities and exemptions.

“In this instance, these individuals should have been tested prior to leaving the managed isolation facility.

“I am taking responsibility for ensuring this does not happen again.

“We have put in place a number of actions to provide the public and government assurance that anyone arriving into New Zealand does not pose any risk from Covid-19.”

“There is one family member isolating with them who is being monitored daily by the local public health unit. The Ministry of Health is managing wider contact tracing from the National Contact Tracing unit.

“We are treating anyone on the flight or in the facility at the same time as the cases as if they are close contacts who have potentially been exposed. We are getting them all tested and isolated until a negative result is received.

“At this point, there are 320 identified close contacts. The majority of these will have been contacted by the end of the day. All of these people will be encouraged to get a test.”

The ministry is confident no contact was made with anyone on the women’s journey between Auckland and Wellington, the update said. “The actions of these two individuals have been exemplary in terms of following health advice and the agreed plan on departure from the facility. I want to thank them for their cooperation and ask that their privacy  continues to be respected during this time.”

Ardern did front up to the media:

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has addressed media on why yesterday’s two new cases, both New Zealand citizens, were allowed out of managed isolation before being tested.

She said it was “an unacceptable failure of the system”.

“From the beginning we have taken an extraordinarily cautious approach at the border … that is also why we required tests to be undertaken at those facilities – one at day three and one at day 12.

“That should have happened in the cases we learned about yesterday, it did not and there are no excuses. It should never have happened and it cannot be repeated.”

Blame did not lie with the two New Zealand citizens returning from the UK, she added. “It is totally unacceptable that procedures we were advised were in place were not. Our job now is to fix that.”

Ardern said she would leave it to director general of health Ashley Bloomfield to determine where responsibility landed and if anyone’s job would be threatened.

She said she was not considering sacking the health minister, David Clark. “The minister is in exactly the same position that I am, we both find what has happened here unacceptable, it is counter to what we were told was happening… He is part of fixing this issue, not part of the problem.”

Ardern was critical of the pressure she said was coming from “a wide range of quarters, not least from some of my colleagues on the other side of the house” to loosen the border. “We have always said that we needed to be cautious. I utterly stand by that.

“This is a growing pandemic, not a slowing one, and we should be extraordinarily careful, and I send that message to the opposition.”

But the Opposition responded with an allegation in Parliament.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Were the two individuals, confirmed with COVID yesterday, accompanied on their drive to Wellington, and, if not, how can he be 100 percent sure that they did not stop during the trip?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: They were not accompanied, and I am assured that they have been the kind of people, and have demonstrated, that they have followed the protocols in place with their self-isolation plan.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen reports that the two individuals went the wrong way on their journey to Wellington and came into close contact with the people who gave them directions?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No, I have seen no evidence of that.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Was he aware that the good Samaritans who assisted them were rewarded with a kiss and a cuddle, and would he consider that to be a close contact?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I would be deeply concerned if that were the case. I have been assured that there was no contact on their journey to the place where they visited their relative in the Wellington region.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he been advised of the details and facts behind the allegations in that last question?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have not. I have certainly asked the question about whether there was any contact at all, and I have been assured that there was no contact along the way. So I have certainly not heard that report, and if the member has actually heard that and not passed it on, that would be very deeply concerning.

Last night from Stuff:  Ministry of Health confirms women with Covid got lost and stopped on drive from Auckland to Wellington

The Ministry of Health has confirmed two women diagnosed with Covid-19 after leaving a managed isolation facility in Auckland did not drive non-stop to Wellington.

Health officials had insisted they did, but Stuff revealed the pair got lost, stopped and met someone.

Politicians had questioned the validity of the claims but the Ministry of Health responded to Stuff late on Wednesday to say that the journey between Auckland and Wellington, taken by two New Zealanders with Covid-19 who returned to New Zealand to see their dying parent had been confirmed.

“Upon leaving the Novotel in a private vehicle provided by friends, the women got lost on the Auckland motorway system.

“On realising this they phoned the same friends who supplied the vehicle, who met and guided them to the correct motorway, so they could go in the right direction. As part of this the pair were in limited physical contact with the two friends for approximately five minutes.”

In addition, health authorities had been informed of instances where friends have made contactless deliveries of food or care packages to the women while they have been in self-isolation in recent days.

The packages were contactless deliveries and the friends who had delivered the packages had taken all appropriate precautions to maintain physical distance, the statement said.

“As such there is no risk to the community from these interactions.”

A second interview with the sisters was conducted by the local public health unit on Tuesday evening and there were subsequent interviews on Wednesday.

The statement says the information was communicated to the Ministry of Health on the afternoon of Wednesday 17 June.

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked for a comment on the revelation, she did not address the issue or that officials had been misled.

A spokesperson for the prime minister reiterated to Stuff what she had said earlier – that there had been an unacceptable systemic failure with the case.

“The government is focused on cleaning it up as quickly as possible and fixing the problems that led to it.”

Woodhouse was criticised on social media, I saw the usual ‘attack the messenger’ nonsense on Twitter, and also at The Standard, but there was also anger expressed there, see from here.

It appears that Woodhouse has been vindicated.

Also:

Something is up with this case.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/419252/ministry-confirms-women-with-covid-19-did-stop-on-trip

The Novotel Ellerslie is literally on top of the Southern motorway jammed hard up against the Greenlane interchange. Apparently they got lost between the hotel and the motorway, a drive less than 500m…yeah, right.

Someone is still lying.

There may be more to come out on this.

The Ministry and the Government should have fronted up with the correct information. This has turned out to be a further embarrassment for the Ministry of Health and the Government.

Stuff: Furious PM sends in military to review and oversee border controls after two new cases.

Ardern said the bungle was completely unacceptable and the “rigour” of the military was needed to sort out what was going at the border.

She appointed assistant chief of defence Air Commodore Darryn Webb to review and oversee border management from here on out.

“We need the rigour, we need the confidence, and we need the discipline that the military can provide,” Ardern said.

He would be able to use the military to make sure the border was being properly handled.

“It is totally unacceptable that procedures we were advised were in place were not. Our job is to fix that.”

“There is no room for error.”

It appears to be a litany of errors and incompetence.

That looks like a major vote of no confidence in Ashley Bloomfield (or throwing under a bus), and in the Ministry of Health.

This isn’t quite hero to zero, but it is a major denting of public confidence in Government and Ministry handling of the pandemic. Minister of Health David Clark has had a poor public relationship, nothing more from him since he expressed ‘frustration’ and ‘disappointment’ over the quarantine debacle before the latest revelations.

I don’t trust the getting lost story. I think it’s more likely a deliberate meeting contrary to specified conditions of exemption.

So this is likely to require Ardern to front up and try to repair the damage.


NZ Herald: Woman who MP claims ‘kissed and cuddled’ Covid travellers attended Auckland gym class days later

An Auckland woman who an MP claims “cuddled and kissed” two Covid-19 infected British travellers attended a “hands-on” training at her local gym yesterday morning.

According to a Facebook post by Felicia Alkin, the owner and founder of Highland Park’s Lioness Gym for Women, the unnamed member was in contact with the two women on Saturday.

She did not know they were positive until yesterday afternoon, Alkin said.

Alkin says she has now cancelled her classes and appointments, and decided to self-isolate with her family, until the gym member – who underwent testing this morning – had tested negative.

Contact tracing will now be a headache for the Ministry.

And the flow on effects of quarantine incompetence and laxness by the women are significant.

Politicians distance themselves from Covid quarantine procedure failures

A lot of dismay and anger has been expressed after two people granted a compassionate exemption to Covid quarantine so they could travel from Auckland to Wellington to see a dying relative, including from politicians who accepted credit and praise  for successfully eradicating Covid, but don’t accept responsibility for this huge stuff up.

The Minister of Health has acted quickly – Compassionate exemptions temporarily suspended

Health Minister Dr David Clark says he has required the Director General of Health to suspend compassionate exemptions from managed isolation, in order to ensure the system is working as intended.

The ‘system’ simply wasn’t working as it should have been.

It will only be reinstated once the Government has confidence in the system.

“Compassionate exemptions should be rare and rigorous and it appears that this case did not include the checks that we expected to be happening. That’s not acceptable,” David Clark said.

“Our border measures are a key line of defence against COVID-19 and we must ensure they are as robust as possible.

It is obvious that border controls were critical. Measures should have been as robust as possible for months. Testing is a basic part of this.

“The Director General will be reviewing the processes around these latest two cases, noting that he has already made it a requirement that all individuals must return a negative COVID test before leaving managed isolation facilities from now on.”

According to RNZ that was only a few days ago.

Over the last week Clark has been praising himself for the Ministry handling of Covid.

On Facebook on 8 June:

#BREAKING We are moving to Alert Level 1 at 11.59pm tonight.
I couldn’t be more proud of overseeing a health system that has responded so well to the challenges of a global pandemic. Together, with the efforts of all New Zealanders, we’ve shown we can stamp out COVID-19. Now let’s keep doing this.

On Facebook on 12 June:

Yesterday (Newstalk ZB): Clark grilled over new cases as PM admits checks were ‘not adequate’

Health Minister David Clark told Heather Du Plessis Allan the system needs to be looked at.

“My request to suspend compassionate exemptions until we ensure the system is working as intended.”

He says that the two women did all that was asked of them.

When it came to them leaving without getting a test, Clark says that ministers understood that was what was happening.

du Plessis-Allan asked how the two teenagers had been able to run away from authorities after being granted an exemption. However, Clark was unaware of the case – learning about it live on air.

“I have not had a briefing on that. I will seek a briefing on that.”

Clark says he is disappointed that the measures he thought were in place weren’t in place.

A lot of people are disappointed in the laxness of systems and the re-introduction of Covid into New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has admitted health officials’ protocols failed to meet expectations after two new Covid-19 cases were revealed today.

In a Facebook Live post this evening, she said standards had not been met.

“This case is clear – our expectations … have not been met in this instance,” she said.

“The two cases that came in from overseas that were announced today were not announced under the circumstances that we would have expected at out border.”

Ardern acknowledged that the two women should not have been granted compassionate leave.

“That is something that we have taken incredibly seriously.”

Ardern said the Government had now halted the compassionate leave scheme for those in self-isolation or quarantine to attend an event such as a funeral.

“Ultimately, after taking a look at what has happened here there is already an expectation that no one leaves quarantine until they have completed their two weeks [isolation] and have been tested,” she said.

“Of course that was our expectation already, so that is where there is a failure in this case.”

So not her responsibility either.

ODT: Compassionate exemptions from quarantine halted

Clark told RNZ’s Checkpoint programme tonight that, as a result of the latest cases, he had asked Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield to temporarily suspend all compassionate exemptions until he was confident that “things are happening as they should” at the borders.

“They followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people … but nonetheless I am disappointed to learn they were out of the facility without testing negative first, because that was my understanding that that would have happened.”

He said it was his understanding that one of the women had symptoms but dismissed them as part of a pre-existing condition.

Clark said it was his expectation that people were tested at three days and 12 days since their arrival, based on advice from the Ministry of Health.

“My understanding is that the Director-General himself was expecting they’d be tested before they left and so the system has clearly not worked as it was intended to work. I’m very disappointed about that.”

Expectations and understandings are not enough. I would have thought that all people entering the country should be tested as soon as they get here.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the two new cases of Covid-19 underline how important it is to have strict border controls.

But she would not be drawn on any details of the cases – the first in the country since May 22 – pointing instead to today’s press conference with Bloomfield.

Ardern fronted up with Bloomfield often over the last few months, so much so that she was criticised for using it for PR purposes.

“There are eight million cases worldwide. We still have New Zealanders returning home,” Ardern said. “What this does prove is the importance of a rigorous system at our border.”

That importance was proven months ago. We should have had a rigorous system at our border at least before lowering our Covid levels and allowing exemptions.

Hopefully these new cases will be contained and won’t spread further, but that would be more by good luck than god management.

But the problems may be bigger:

NZ Herald:  Two new New Zealand Covid cases from UK, Jacinda Ardern admits system ‘failure’

The women arrived in New Zealand on June 7 and applied for a dispensation on Friday June 12.

The application for leave was expedited because of the sudden death of their parent later that day, Bloomfield said, and they were allowed to leave for Wellington on the condition they were tested there.

They arrived on 7 June and were granted an exemption after 12 June without having been tested. Being asked to get tested when the got to Wellington is remarkable,.

The women, in their 30 and 40s, arrived on a flight from Britain via Doha and Brisbane.

Bloomfield wasn’t nervous that there would be a sudden outbreak because the close contacts – including people at the Novotel Ellerslie in Auckland where they stayed and on the Brisbane flight – were all being traced.

The pair were currently in quarantine at a Wellington property with a third family member – apparently the only person they have had contact with since leaving Auckland.

 

Health and Disability reforms

The Government has announced the  final report of the Health and Disability System Review which makes many recommendations for reforming the health and disability systems, but they will need to be considered by Cabinet and there isn’t much time to do this before Parliament pauses and this year’s election campaign begins.

“The Review makes it clear we have a very good health and disability system – as has been shown by the outstanding performance of our health services in response to COVID-19,” Health Minister Dr David Clark said.

“But it also confirms that our health services and workforce are under considerable stress and our system is complex and fragmented.

The Review’s recommendations include:

  • Shifting to a greater focus on population health
  • Creating a new Crown Entity, provisionally called Health NZ, focused on operational delivery of health and disability services and financial performance
  • Reducing the number of DHBs from the current 20 down to 8-12 within five years, and moving to fully appointed Boards
  • Creating a Māori Health Authority to advise on all aspects of Māori Health policy and to monitor and report on the performance of the system with respect to Māori
  • Greater integration between primary and community care and hospital/specialist services

“Cabinet has accepted the case for reform, and the direction of travel outlined in the Review, specifically changes that will reduce fragmentation, strengthen leadership and accountability and improve equity of access and outcomes for all New Zealanders.

“The Prime Minister will lead a group of ministers that will drive the changes. The group will include the Finance Minister, Health Minister and Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare.

Interesting to see that the Prime Minister will “drive the changes”, not the Minister of health, who seemed sidelined during the Covid pandemic lockdown.

.“One immediate priority will be to lock in many of the positive changes made in recent months in response to COVID-19, such as the greater use of virtual consultations and e-prescribing and the renewed national focus on Public Health.

I have experienced virtual consultations and e-prescribing and I think these are no-brainer options along with in-person consultations when necessary or wanted.

“…reforming our health and disability system is a massive undertaking, and will not happen overnight. Meaningful change and improvement will take concerted effort over many years.

“With that in mind, I will be appointing a Ministerial Committee (under Section 11 of the Public Health and Disability Act) to provide ongoing expert advice.

“An implementation team will also be set up to lead the detailed policy and design work. It will be administered by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It is unlikely this will be operating before the election, so will be dependant on the incoming Government probably in October.

There is quite a bit of typical Clark self praise and political palaver in his announcement. Most of that has been omitted from the above extracts. The full release:  Building a stronger health and disability system

The Health and Disability System Review is available at https://systemreview.health.govt.nz/final-report