Health Minister David Clark cannot say whether the proper protocols were applied to any of the 55 people who left managed isolation early on compassionate grounds before June 16.
Speaking to reporters this morning, Clark would not be drawn on why the mandatory measures for compassionate leave - a negative test and at least a week in managed isolation - were not applied after they were announced as new border measures starting from June 9.
Asked if those measures had been applied to any of the 55 or why there had been a failure, he did not directly answer.
"The system was not working as I thought it should be working. I took action immediately to suspend that."
Clark made the comments after appearing before the health select committee with director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.
Clark said Bloomfield, who is giving a press conference at 1.30pm today, was looking into why the failures had happened.
Late last night, the Ministry of Health said 51 of the 55 people granted early leave between June 9 and 16 had not been tested before they left managed isolation.
It had taken more than a week for that question to be answered because an integrated IT system did not exist - but is now being built - and health officials had to match name and date of birth details from their systems with information held at isolation facilities.
The 55 people represent the highest risk because they didn't complete 14 days of managed isolation before being in the community, and the prerequisite of a negative test before leaving was not observed.
Of the 55, four were tested before leaving managed isolation, and two of the four were tested the day they left, meaning the results were unlikely to have been known when they left.
They have all been contacted and referred for testing; 39 have tested negative, seven will not be tested because they are either children or for medical reasons, and one was wrongly counted because their leave application was withdrawn.
Of the remaining eight, four are awaiting test results, and four are still to be tested.
It is unclear how many of them spent at least a week in isolation before leaving, which was another prerequisite for compassionate leave.
National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse said the border failures had increased the risk of Covid in the community - though there was as yet no evidence of that.
He said it was "appalling" for Clark to thanked public officials when the Covid response was going well but to throw them under the bus when something went wrong.
He repeated his call for Clark to resign, calling him "dead man walking".
"There isn't any [political accountability]. And every single minister that's been asked that question has run for cover."
Woodhouse stood by his claim that a homeless man had snuck into a hotel and had 14 days there on the taxpayer.
He said it was extraordinary for the Government to use so many resources to stack up the claim when it had taken over a week to say how many people hadn't been tested when they should have been.
He described a letter asking for his help from Megan Woods, who has ministerial oversight of quarantine and managed isolation facilities, as an attempt to "throw mud".
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The ministry is following up with the 55 people after it was revealed that two sisters were allowed to leave managed isolation on compassionate grounds and drive from Auckland to Wellington - where they both tested positive.
The ministry is also following up with 190 people who potentially came into contact with the two sisters while they were at the Novotel Ellerslie from June 6 to June 13. Only three of the 190 people are still to be contacted.
And work is continuing to contact all of the 2159 people who left managed isolation facilities other than the Novotel Ellerslie between June 9 and June 16. These people should have all been tested before they left, but Bloomfield said yesterday they had simply been "offered" a test.
They are considered very low risk as they have all completed the 14-day isolation, and even if they've had it or have it, they may not be infectious.
Yesterday, Bloomfield said he did not have a sense of how many of the 2159 people had been tested.
The Government has suspended compassionate leave and brought in the military to oversee the quarantine/managed isolation process. Cabinet Minister Megan Woods now has ministerial oversight of the process.
Yesterday, Clark announced regular mandatory testing of people working at the border including air crew and people working in quarantine and isolation centres.
The regime would also include such people as drivers who ferry arrivals from the airport to isolation, cleaners, immigration, customs, and biosecurity and security staff.
Air New Zealand crew would be regularly tested, Clark said, but he could not say whether air crew from non-New Zealand airlines flying from hotspots such as India or the United States would be tested.
Two new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed yesterday, and with one of the sisters now recovered, the current number of active cases is 10.