The Ministry of Health has backtracked on a claim by director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield that tests requisitioned from private businesses were not already in New Zealand when the Ministry took them.
Last month, when news broke that the Ministry was requisitioning tests ordered by private companies for its own stocks, Bloomfield said private and public orders of the tests were being "consolidated" into one order for the Government.
Bloomfield twice assured the public that tests taken by the Ministry were "forward orders" from overseas, not tests already in New Zealand.
"Many businesses already have tests onshore and we're not requisitioning those or doing anything like that," Bloomfield said.
This was only partly correct. While tests from one of the manufacturers, Abbott, were not being requisitioned, tests from another manufacturer, Roche, very much were.
He added, "we have discussed with our three main suppliers which are Abbott, Roche and Siemens, that forward orders of tests that haven't arrived in the country be consolidated into the Government's stock so that it is there for the whole country including private businesses".
While no stocks of Abbott tests that are already in the country have been requisitioned, a substantial stock of Roche tests have been, a fact the Ministry now admits.
A spokeswoman from the Ministry acknowledged it "did take the full February allocation from Roche and their stock on hand in New Zealand as part of having our orders fulfilled by Roche".
However, the spokeswoman said this "did not include any 'delivery confirmed' Roche orders".
She said Abbott, Roche and Siemens had been asked " to provide information regarding customers that may have been impacted by our expectation that Government orders are prioritised for New Zealand's Public Health Response."
National's Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said the Government had been "tricky" on the issue of RATs "right from the start".
"They have used sophistry and deliberately confusing language to hide what happened here," Bishop said.
"Which is that the Government nicked tests from the private sector because they were too incompetent to order their own," he said.
When asked about the requisitioning fiasco, Bloomfield and ministers tend to answer with reference to Abbott's tests, which had not been requisitioned.
This was despite no companies with Abbott tests on order actually alleging their orders had been taken. The two largest firms who complained their tests had been taken, InScience and Health Works Group, both ordered Roche products.
In a press conference last month, instead of answering what had happened to the missing Roche tests, Bloomfield answered questions relating to Abbott tests - tests which no one had reported as being stolen.
He added that the requisitioning of testing stock had only begun as recently as Sunday, January 23.
"The conversation I had which was Sunday morning with Abbott when we were discussing our forward orders and trying to get as much certainty as possible about how much of those forward orders would be delivered and the timing of those orders between now and February," Bloomfield said.
"During that conversation I was asked about the orders that other New Zealand-based companies had and I was asked about whether they should prioritise delivery to that All-of-Government order," Bloomfield said.
The Ministry of Health has been asked twice in the last week when it first ordered the Roche tests to be diverted into its stocks. It has yet to answer.
Roche was also asked a week ago what happened to the stocks. Its New Zealand general manager Wing Lam Wong promised to answer those questions last Friday.
Instead, a week later, at 9.39pm on Friday, Roche decided it would not answer those questions. Instead, the company sent a statement that went out to businesses on February 4, promising they would have their orders fulfilled eventually, although it did not specify when.
"Roche Diagnostics (Roche) continues to operate in line with ethical standards for business and recognises our acceptance of your order as a contractual obligation," the statement said.
"RAT kits will be supplied to all New Zealand customers in the sequence that purchase orders were placed," it said.