Health Minister Chris Hipkins says the testing results from the Auckland cluster so far indicate that New Zealand has dodged a Covid-19 bullet.
And he says he still has confidence in the Ministry of Health, even though he was wrongly told "several weeks ago" that staff managing positive cases at the Jet Park Hotel were being tested weekly.
Yesterday there were just over 26,000 tests but only nine new cases, all connected or likely to be connected to the Auckland cluster.
The cluster currently has 58 people, while almost 100,000 tests have been conducted since the first cases came to light last week.
Hipkins told the Herald that the outbreak appears to have been detected before it had a chance to explode - not only in Auckland, but all over the country.
"You never want to speak too soon, but it does appear we've managed to get there just on the moment it was critical."
Cabinet will still wait for the latest test results before it reviews the current review alert settings on Friday.
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The source of origin still remains a mystery, but every border-facing worker is expected to be tested by the end of the week.
Regular testing of frontline border-facing workers was already meant to be in place, and Hipkins was "very frustrated" to learn that it wasn't.
Only 60 per cent of workers at the Jet Park Hotel had been tested at all, a blunder for which Hipkins has taken responsibility.
He had pushed the ministry on the issue, Hipkins said.
"Every conversation with the Ministry of Health, I've been very clear about what Cabinet's expectations are. It is very clear that expectations haven't been met."
He had asked for a daily breakdown of testing numbers of workers at the border to ensure that Cabinet's wishes were being actioned, and when the data didn't show which workers were being tested, he asked questions.
"We were told several weeks ago that weekly testing of Jet Park staff was happening. It's clear that wasn't completely accurate," Hipkins said.
"That was advice that came from the Ministry of Health."
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, however, said today there had been no failures, that no one had misled anyone, and he had regular communications with Hipkins and Cabinet.
Regular testing was in the process of being rolled out, he said, and he would look at whether information flows "in both directions" could be better.
"There was clearly a dissonance between what the Prime Minister thought was happening and what was happening on the ground."
Hipkins said he still has confidence in the ministry and its ability to implement Cabinet's instructions - even though this is not the first time testing wasn't being done as ministers believed.
He intends to pass a new Public Health Response order to ensure border-facing workers are routinely tested in the future, based on a risk-assessment.
Regular testing was only part of the defence against Covid-19 at the border, he added.
Prevention measures included regular physical distancing at border workplaces, wearing masks on planes, and having airline passengers being greeted by staff with masks and gloves on.
A tighter alert level 1?
Bloomfield today floated the idea of tightening alert level 1 settings to increase the chances of avoiding moving back to lockdown or lockdown lite in the future.
"We should aim to get back to life as normal as possible but the new normal I think might include perhaps a little more physical distancing, more frequent availability and use of hand gels, possibly even the use of masks in some settings," Bloomfield said.
"All New Zealanders would prefer that we stayed in alert level 1, and would be prepared to perhaps modify what our behaviours are in alert level 1."
But Hipkins had a lukewarm response.
"I actually think our level 1 settings are pretty good."
But he added that requiring businesses to have QR codes might be extended to alert level 1.
"I would imagine that the display of the QR codes will remain compulsory."