Newstalk ZB breakfast host Mike Hosking has branded New Zealand's border testing a "shambles" after the Ministry of Health announced how many of the 55 people who left quarantine early on compassionate leave were not tested for Covid-19.
This morning, Hosking played a week's worth of audio clips of health officials saying they didn't know how many of the 2159 people left government-mandated quarantine without being tested between June 9-16.
When director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was asked last Wednesday how many people were tested before being released, he responded with: "I do not know that number."
Hosking then followed up on Monday and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "The Ministry of Health is working through that and I would leave that to them to provide any information."
On Tuesday, Hosking asked the minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, Megan Woods, who also responded that she didn't have those numbers.
Bloomfield was also asked again yesterday, to which he replied that he still didn't have the numbers.
After a week of no definitive answers, the Ministry of Health has revealed that 51 of 55 people who left quarantine early had not been tested.
And of the four that had had a test, two were tested on the day of departure so they must have been released by staff without knowing they were negative.
"How many people did we know were negative as they left quarantine?", Hosking asked his listeners this morning.
He then referred to 51 who were not tested before adding: "Then you get to the people who have arrived in the county between May 10 and June 16. There were 7711. How many people do you reckon then have been tested?
"See what a botch-up this is? What a shambles it is."
Earlier this morning, Hosking spoke with Auckland University medical professor Des Gorman, who said it was hard to imagine so much liberty was allowed at the border.
While many of the early release people might not be found to be infectious now, that did not mean they were infectious at the time.
He agreed with Hosking that the total 2159 people who left managed isolation between June 9 and 16 would not be tracked down now.
"While we don't want to over-egg the souffle, we have to make the assumption these people have reseeded the infection in the community. We have to act accordingly to quickly re-achieve the elimination."
He said the system failures were extraordinary. "I have just been dumbfounded that all of this stuff wasn't in place in February."
Gorman said in order to stay safe, people needed to retain hygiene habits - including washing hands and, if they felt unwell, staying at home and getting tested in more serious cases. "I think we can rely on the military to get the border right. They don't have the same lack of discipline you have among many health officials."
He said rest-homes, retirement villages and the elderly had to be properly protected "this time", with proper boundaries for the vulnerable.
The Government also needed to sort out contact-tracing, Gorman said. It was taking days to find people's contacts - a ridiculous amount of time.
The Government has ordered regular mandatory testing of people working at the border including air crew and people working in quarantine and isolation centres as it faces continued pressure over past failures.
Clark said the new testing 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.