National Party leader Todd Muller says the Health Minister's head should roll over the Covid border blunder, which will take a major economic toll because it will push back the transtasman bubble and the return of international students.
Muller said it was not the first time David Clark had messed up, noting that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would have sacked him in April for flouting lockdown rules were it not for the need for continuity in the Government's Covid response.
Muller said he was "furious" that border protocols weren't properly followed, which led to two women with Covid-19 being allowed to leave managed isolation in Auckland on compassionate grounds without being tested.
It is also unclear whether their daily health checks in isolation were carried out properly, which may have picked up one of the woman's mild symptoms and led to their leave being denied.
Muller said it was up to director general of health Ashley Bloomfield to decide whether to reprimand the health officials directly involved with those lapses.
"The fact that officials have the ability to decide themselves on any given day what elements of the rules they think should apply or not apply is untenable and it needs to be urgently fixed."
But ultimately it was Clark's responsibility, he said.
"I would expect him to have been driving this and assuring himself that there are no chances for failure, and through constant auditing ensuring that it is being delivered to the standards he would expect."
He conceded Clark didn't implement the border processes himself, but insisted it wasn't too much of a leap to call for Clark's head to roll.
"The minister sets expectations around the priority that those protocols are followed to the letter. It's his overall strategic focus in ensuring this is treated with the seriousness required that I'm calling out here.
"This is not a one-off. There is the cumulative effect of constant misjudgements and constant lack of prioritising this. David Clark needs to be sacked."
The errors at the border was a major economic set-back, Muller said.
"The opportunity to open up to international students has definitely been delayed. The opportunity to open up a transtasman bubble has been delayed.
"It undermines confidence in our border management, and that is completely unacceptable when you think about the thousands of jobs that are expected to be lost over the next weeks and months."
He accepted that mistakes happen.
"But when the stakes are so acutely high, you absolutely need to be triply sure you are bringing the best of your thinking and people and process and assurance and auditing to the table."
Otago University infectious diseases expert Professor Michael Baker told Morning Report this was a serious error.
"We know how unforgiving this virus is."
He said there were two issues: "Are our protocols adequate and how well are they being applied?"
Not using face masks as a protocol in some public spaces was an important gap, he said.
"In this regard, we are really out of step with other countries."
As more people begin to come from overseas, quarantine facilities would need to be expanded and "the potential for risk and error will keep increasing," Baker said.
Clark should 'no longer hold this position'
National's health spokesperson has called the decision to allow the women to travel "staggeringly incompetent."
Michael Woodhouse told Newstalk ZB's Kate Hawkesby the women were meant to be tested on arrival, in isolation for seven days, then tested before they left.
He says it doesn't appear any of those things have been done.
"We were told we had the testing, tracing and quarantining system in place - clearly they're not being followed in the way the Ministry [of Health] said they would"
Woodhouse says the protocols are there, but they just weren't followed.
And he says the Minister of Health David Clark has been evading this issue - and should no longer hold his position.
"He's completely disengaged from a ministerial portfolio he knows he's not going to hold in the next two or three months.
"In fact, it should be in the next two or three days
"He's done enough to warrant somebody else coming in there and fixing this mess, he certainly doesn't appear capable of it or interested in it."
Rigorous testing underway
"We are reviewing exactly what has happened in these circumstances because they cannot be repeated," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last night.
Yesterday compassionate leave for those in quarantine had been suspended.
In a Facebook message last night, Ardern said that would not change unless testing was "rigorous".
There was an expectation that anyone who came into from overseas was in quarantine for two weeks and would not leave without being tested, she said. "That was where there was a failure in this case."
Rigorous testing was underway of everyone they had been in contact with, even those remotely, she said.
"These individuals have not had contact with wider members of the public."
She said the government was taking the issue seriously and referred to the instance it was taken to court by a man in mandatory quarantine wanting to visit his dying father.