Health Minister Chris Hipkins has taken full responsibility for major gaps in the testing regime of staff at the front line of New Zealand's Covid-19 quarantine management systems.
But he stopped short of apologising, saying that he has "only been sharing the information that I have been given".
This comes after he was forced to admit that just 60 per cent of all managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) staff working at the Jet Park hotel – the country's main Covid-19 quarantine centre – were being tested at least once a week.
Hipkins said it appeared the testing at this facility had not been happening at the rate the Government had been asking for, or at the level he was told was happening.
This has raised questions about the level of testing at other facilities.
The blunder comes despite Government assurances from almost two months ago that there would be "regular health checks and asymptomatic testing of all border-facing workers".
Hipkins yesterday expressed his frustration and disappointment over the fact he was misled about how many staff were being regularly tested at the Jet Park site.
But he did not want to dwell on the failures at the facilities, as he wanted to instead focus on the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland.
He said there would be plenty of time to figure out what went wrong but now was not the time to be pointing fingers.
"I'm not going to distract people's attention from doing the job at hand to go back over that now," he said.
He did, however, say he "absolutely accepts responsibility" for the lack of testing at MIQ facilities.
National leader Judith Collins said the situation was "staggeringly unacceptable".
"It's unthinkable that such incompetence has been allowed to go on, when we all, as 5 million, underwent weeks of lockdown," she told the Herald.
Collins added that for the Government to have put all those gains at risks was "unthinkable".
On Friday, Hipkins ordered that all frontline Covid-19 staff be regularly tested – all staff are expected to be tested by tomorrow.
Hipkins said that in the 24 hours before 9am yesterday, testing had been done on 583 MIQ staff, 976 airport staff and 270 maritime staff.
"I think I have been doing everything I possibly can to ensure the testing that we expect has happened."
This is not the first time such a testing mishap has occurred.
In June, the Ministry of Health revealed 54 people had left a facility on compassionate grounds without first returning a negative Covid-19 test - which was meant to be a prerequisite.
Two of them – sisters who had returned from the UK – drove from Auckland to Wellington, where they subsequently tested positive.
The Government responded by temporarily suspending compassionate leave and bringing in the Defence Force to oversee the how the facilities are run.
The ministry also revealed that the day three and day 12 testing of people staying in managed isolation or quarantine facilities wasn't taking place, despite Bloomfield having already announced it as government policy. Of the 2159 people who left MIQ facilities between June 9 and 16, only 800 of them had been tested.
Bloomfield came under enormous pressure over the blunders, for which he accepted responsibility, as the ministry scrambled to contact them and test them. None of them subsequently tested positive other than the two sisters, but not all could be contacted and some refused to be tested.
Meanwhile, Bloomfield yesterday revealed there were seven new Covid-19 cases in the community identified – six linked to the Auckland cluster, with the other still under investigation.
That brings the total number of community transmission cases in New Zealand to 37.
All but two have been linked to the Auckland cluster but Bloomfield said both cases are highly likely to soon be linked back to the cluster.
As long as all that happened, Hipkins said New Zealanders can be confident "we can put a ring around the cases".
There were no new cases from any of the close contacts of the Tokoroa two, or from the Kingswood Rest home in Morrinsville.
So far, 54 people linked to the cluster have been moved into quarantine facilities in Auckland.
Bloomfield appeared confident about the Government's contact tracing abilities.
There have been close to 1100 close contacts of people within the Auckland cluster identified so far – 934 of which have been contacted by health officials.
"The key measure we use for contact tracing effectiveness is 80 per cent of people contacted within 48 hours," Bloomfield said.
"For the period August 6–12, we have contacted 86 per cent of those close contacts within 48 hours."
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said this was "gold standard territory".
Both Bloomfield and Hipkins talked up New Zealand's testing regime yesterday.
"The sheer volume of testing we're seeing can also give us confidence," Hipkins said.
In fact, on Friday there were just under 24,000 Covid-19 tests undertaken.
That brings the number of test completed since Wednesday to 49,780 – representing just under 10 per cent of the total number of Covid-19 tests in New Zealand completed to date.
"That is a phenomenal effort," Hipkins said.