VIRUS LATEST
* Teenagers flee isolation after attending funeral
* Compassionate leave exemptions cancelled
* Can you really drive from Auckland to Wellington on a tank of gas?
* Comment: Inexcusable and embarrassing: Why the PM should be livid
* 8.1 million cases globally, 438,000 deaths - two active cases in New Zealand

A top Cabinet MP used language stronger than his own Prime Minister and the Health Minister, saying two new New Zealand cases of Covid have highlighted unforgivable and unacceptable "ineptitude".

Police Minister Stuart Nash told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking that someone needed to be held to account after the two women flew in from the UK, were allowed out of isolation in an Auckland hotel early, and made a road-trip to Wellington.

There, they took tests for Covid and tested positive. Their tests mean Covid is active again in New Zealand. Herald readers are livid, saying the botch-up has put the "team of 5 million" at risk.

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"I cannot repeat the words on your show that I said when I heard what had happened," Nash told Hosking, using language far stronger than Health Minister David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"Someone does need to be held to account. We need to have a review of what's happening in quarantine because it's totally inacceptable, when five million Kiwis do it real tough.

"To get this sort of ineptitude, man it is unforgivable. As David said, he's cancelled compassionate dispensation and there's a review of the system. Let's make sure it doesn't happen again."

Ardern and Clark have admitted system failures and say that they have been let down.

Clark told Hosking that he spoke to Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield on the phone last night, and told him compassionate exemptions needed to stop.

The call is likely to have been terse. "I have expressed my frustration. The Director-General is absolutely committed to putting this right."

Pushed hard by Hosking on why no one was 'ever' held to account - citing Clark's own lockdown breaches as well as previous controversies involving MPs Phil Twyford, Iain Lees-Galloway and Clare Curran - Clark said: "I have certainly been demoted, Mike."

"I am not interested in a witch-hunt. I want this to be fixed and that's why I want this thoroughly investigated.

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"New Zealanders have sacrificed a huge deal to ensure we don't have community transmission."

In a Facebook Live post on Tuesday evening, Ardern said standards had not been met. "This case is clear - our expectations ... have not been met in this instance," she said.

"The two cases that came in from overseas that were announced today were not announced under the circumstances that we would have expected at our border."

Clark told Hosking this morning: "I want it fixed. That's my first priority. There will be consequences if it's found people have failed in their duty. I am quite certain that people who have made this mistake will not be making it again.

"We have to find out exactly what happened...it's fallen short of what New Zealanders expect. I am very disappointed."

He said health officials needed to do more than just tests.

"We need a thorough medical check when people are leaving. I don't think that just testing is enough, because we know people return false negatives. We need assurance that proper interviews are being done as well."

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The two women who flew to New Zealand from Britain tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, ending the country's 24-day run of no new cases.

They were allowed to leave their managed isolation at the Novotel Ellerslie in Auckland to drive to Wellington, on the basis they were tested in the Capital. Those tests returned positive results yesterday.

The women said they did not stop for fuel or supplies on their road-trip. They apparently took a toilet stop on the side of the road.

One of the women had mild symptoms before being tested, but this was put down to a pre-existing condition.

Ardern acknowledged the two women should not have been granted compassionate leave.

"That is something that we have taken incredibly seriously."

Ardern said the Government has now halted the compassionate leave scheme for those in self-isolation or quarantine to attend an event such as a funeral.

"Ultimately, after taking a look at what has happened here there is already an expectation that no one leaves quarantine until they have completed their two weeks [isolation] and have been tested," she said.

"Of course that was our expectation already, so that is where there is a failure in this case."

She reassured Kiwis that those who have been given economic exemption to come into New Zealand have not been exempted from the 14-day managed isolation period.

Speaking about those who have previously been given exemptions to see loved ones who were dying, she said no one has been treated as if they were safe.

"There have been circumstances where there has been very tight protocols worked in to allow people to see a dying relative."

Ardern's Facebook Live video tonight.
Ardern's Facebook Live video tonight.

Herald readers have also shared their frustration at the failures.

Karl Cameron labelled the two cases a "cock-up of the highest order".

"To put a country at risk in this manner by crappy process is absolutely inexcusable.

"And Jacinda .... for all the good work seemingly done, this is slack .... truly slack, and unforgiving, to put 5 million people at risk and a glowing example to the world on how to contain and eliminate the virus? To have this country's position at serious, serious risk by disgusting slack process is unforgivable."

Anthony Mercer wrote that New Zealanders had good reason to be concerned at the "avoidable lapses in quarantine restrictions".

"These recent instances of inadequate policing of potential virus-carriers make a mockery of the Government's promises to protect New Zealanders following our attainment of level 1 on the Covid restriction table.

"There arises a singular risk of undoing the good work that the country has done during the costly and inconvenient eight-week lockdown were a new outbreak of Covid-19 to eventuate and be sheeted home to the inadequate quarantining of arriving passengers.

"Hitherto virus–free New Zealanders would be rightly outraged at such an event and the PM would be highly embarrassed to say the least."

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said earlier that the two women's conditions might have been picked up if the daily health check in managed isolation had been done properly, including asking them about every individual Covid-19 symptom.

"My understanding is the person who had the symptoms was asked, 'Are you okay?' ... The protocol is to go through each individual symptom."

The women arrived in New Zealand on June 7 and applied for a dispensation on Friday June 12.

The application for leave was expedited because of the sudden death of their parent later that day, Bloomfield said, and they were allowed to leave for Wellington on the condition they were tested there.

The women, in their 30 and 40s, arrived on a flight from Britain via Doha and Brisbane.

Bloomfield wasn't nervous that there would be a sudden outbreak because the close contacts - including people at the Novotel Ellerslie in Auckland where they stayed and on the Brisbane flight - were all being traced.

The pair were currently in quarantine at a Wellington property with a third family member - apparently the only person they have had contact with since leaving Auckland.