New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is standing by his statement made to Australian media last week that a border security breach led to the latest Covid-19 outbreak.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins began today's Covid-19 briefing with a stern warning. He said that a widespread rumour on social media about a woman sneaking into a managed isolation facility was false.
Last week, Peters told Patricia Karvelas of Australia's ABC 24 News that he's been given information from a "reliable source" that a breach inside our quarantine system led to the Auckland outbreak.
Today, Peters would not back down on his comments.
"The rumour that you're seeing on social media is not my rumour. Not sustained by me," he said.
"Even though they can claim it's mine... nothing of the sort is connected with me at all.
"But, I stand by the fact that this is a border security issue."
At the daily Covid-19 press conference Hipkins called the rumour "troubling" and said it caused "considerable distress" for the family at the centre of the cluster.
Hipkins said rumours are nothing new but this "one piece of information spread like wild fire" and included "a number of vile slurs".
He said it was "harmful, dangerous and utterly wrong".
"It did not happen," Hipkins said.
The minister added the rumour was "fully investigated" and the investigation found "it was false".
He also said this rumour in particular looks more deliberate and malicious than others and "smacks of orchestration".
"At a time when we're fighting a pandemic and we need all hands on deck to beat it down, this is deliberately designed to create panic, fear and confusion," he said.
He issued a plea to New Zealanders: "Please New Zealanders, think twice before sharing unverified information."
"We want everyone to accept some personal responsibility for the information they are out there sharing."
Hipkins thanked the media for the way it handled the rumours.
"I want to thank the media for the responsible way they reacted to these claims. They sought official word on truthfulness before reporting."