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The Prime Minister is warning against expecting perfection at the border as NZ Defence Force troops are brought in to tighten the regime which has seen two strains of Covid-19 infections escape.
Jacinda Ardern has also brought in two top advisors to spearhead the testing strategy after failings saw frontline border workers go untested.
But she has been sideswiped by her coalition partner this morning, with NZ First leader Winston Peters saying he'd been pushing for the military to lead border protection efforts before the first lockdown - for a fifth of the price of hotels.
It comes as epidemiologist Sir David Skegg is calling on the Ministry of Health to release data on the number of people infected by this outbreak who had previously tried to get a test but were denied one.
"With spread of this virus, every day counts. Unfortunately the continual changes in criteria for testing in the community led to an unsatisfactory testing performance," Skegg said.
Skegg said the testing staff at the border - including at airports and sea ports, along with those managing isolation and quarantine facilities - had been "even poorer than some of us feared".
This was because the Government had relied on people voluntarily being tested and "partly due to a clear failure" in executing the testing strategy.
Minister in charge of managed isolation Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb told Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch they were visiting hotel premises in Christchurch today.
"We are always learning how to do things better," Webb said.
He said the assumption is people staying in the premises have Covid and appropriate precautions are taken.
Woods said one of things when visiting the facilities that gave them confidence was talking to the teams.
"You can just see how into the detail the staff are, and how much they really care about all the responsibilities."
The facilities had been chosen due to suitability for security, which continued to be "layered up".
"Any breach that is a danger to public health is reported," Woods said.
The pair were asked about Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters' idea to shift facilities to military camps.
"We are not adverse to other kinds of facilities," Woods said.
"They are conversations we have had, where they would be, but we do already have these hotels, and they are also providing a way to keep them operating.
"Some of them are exceptionally good in terms of their layout.
"But we've always been open to purpose-built facilities."
This could include temporary houses, Woods said.
As the country could be doing this for a while, they did need to look at more permanent options, Woods said.
Regarding testing, they were now up to 99 per cent of all staff being tested, Woods said.
They'd recognised an issue, and were now addressing it.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb said the situation was challenging, and at the heart was people.
"We have to be realistic in our expectations. And we are not adverse to improving as we go."
Manouvering into a low-trust model, with few barriers, was not easy, Webb said.
Kiwis had a "she'll be right" attitude, and were not so good when being told what to do, Webb said.
That's why there needed to be a balance between treating the facilities between prisons and hotels.
"Spending 14 days locked in a room is not easy."
Woods said taking over security now meant they would all be paid at least the living wage.
"Paying people the living wage does lift behaviour."
The Government would now also be doing the training, health and safety and professional development.
"This is the Government saying this is very important, and so we are doing to directly hire [security staff] ourselves.
"There have been issues with security, not seen issues like in Victoria, but about us looking every day at how can make more secure.
"When I walk into the facilities and see the leadership, it is really good. I want to make sure the staff have security of work, are being paid a decent wage."
In terms of improvements, Webb said it was a human-based system, and it was unrealistic for there not to be small mistakes.
But increasing use of technology would play a big part in this.
Woods was asked about the recent announcement of thermal CCTV technology.
Webb said it was just ability to see by day and by night.
It was a system that knew if people went outside a geographical area.
At the moment they relied on people seeing things. Now, combining human expertise with technology, if there is a door ajar an alarm will go off.
Somewhere between 450 and 500 people were returning to New Zealand from overseas, Webb said.
But this was a fraction of the thousands at the start of Covid-19.
Regarding escapees, the ultimate responsibility was with the Government, Woods said.
They were asking these hotels to operate as managed isolation facilities.
"But we need to work in partnership."
On June 23, Cabinet agreed on a testing strategy but it was slow to be implemented with many border-facing workers - including about two-thirds of MIQ workers - not being tested at all before the latest outbreak.
Peters told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking today that the Defence Force should have been leading border protection efforts from the start.
He said the Government could not have people being assured something was happening and when inquiries were made, this was found not to be the case.
The military worked along far more disciplined and organised principles. "We can't have people doing what they like."
"We asked for the military to be used before we went into lockdown in the first place. You have your biggest city in the country, we're bringing people into there, threatening the huge population. We could have isolated properly, in my view, and ensured people were safe and we were not endangering the population of the country."
Peters said military facilities at Whangaparāoa, Ohakea, Burnham, Waiouru and West Melton could all be used. "We have got the facilities, we have got the land and we have the soldiers. The cost [when] put against the hotels could be $1 to $5."
Meanwhile, Peters felt the High Court had got it wrong with its decision that ruled the first nine days of New Zealand's original lockdown were unlawful.
"I'll give you my perspective, only mine," he told Hosking. "We had a disquiet that the laws of this country were not sufficient for an occasion like this. I wasn't surprised. It was only nine days. I still disagree in some context with the court's decision - in the end the number one responsibility of any member of Parliament, let alone a minister or the prime minister, is the safety and security of the population of New Zealand. In that context, I'm still prepared to say I think the court has got it wrong."
Ardern yesterday announced a small team would take control of implementing the testing regime and support the Health Ministry. It will be co-chaired by Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche with other members to be revealed later in the week.
Ardern said the testing regime cut across multiple different agencies and the implementation committee would guarantee "very robust" expectations were being met.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he didn't see the Government establishing a team to take over oversight of testing as a vote of no confidence, but "in fact I welcome this".
And over the next six weeks 500 more Defence Force staff are being deployed to tighten up MIQ facilities. The Government is also directly hiring security guards, which will make them less reliant on private security guards.
That will bring the total Defence Force personnel supporting the Covid-19 response to around 1200 – the largest military contingent since East Timor.
This boost will be rolled out over the next six weeks, with 19 staff at each facility.
Ardern said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - which is responsible for MIQ operations - would train and employ the guards and pay them a living wage and this would help accountability.
This move follows concerns about some private security guards' behaviour, including not wearing masks properly and sharing a list of guests' names on social media.
"Nothing to date has tracked this particular outbreak back to the border, but nonetheless we want that to be as tight as possible."
But, she warned any notion a border system, which has so far processed 40,000 returnees, "will be absolutely perfect is unrealistic".
"The Auckland cluster demonstrates how tricky Covid-19 is as a virus and while events of the last week represents a setback for some with further modifications and strengthening our border arrangements, we can limit the risk of future spread.
"We must always be looking for improvements as we go. On that point I do wish to emphasise the word 'limit'. No system is foolproof and in a global pandemic there are no absolutes."
There were six new cases yesterday, five of which were identified and connected to the South Auckland cluster, bringing the total infected from the outbreak to 74, making it the fifth largest cluster. The sixth case yesterday was in managed isolation.
There were no new cases linked to the Rydges Hotel case.
Five people are in hospital - one in Auckland City and four in Middlemore. The Ministry of Health said it had heard reports of people reluctant to get an ambulance or go to hospital fearing they'd be infected but gave an assurance hospitals were safe places.
Sixty-one of the confirmed cases and another 64 close and household contacts have been moved to an Auckland quarantine facility.
Investigations into the source of how the Rydges maintenance worker became infected filled in another piece of the puzzle with genome testing concluding he was infected with the same strain as a woman from the United States who stayed at the end of July.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who is in charge of operations at MIQ, said because there was no person-to-person contact the other two options were environmental contamination or a third person.
A nurse did visit the woman in her room and is being retested as her first test result came back negative, in case she was the missing link.
Health officials are also looking at how they could use serology testing which confirms antibodies to the virus in someone's blood as it could tell who's been exposed to the virus and which strain.