National is calling for an investigation into the Valentine’s Day Covid-19 cluster:
The National Party is calling for an inquiry into the Valentine’s Day cluster to see where our response went wrong, and what lessons we can learn.
The scope of the inquiry would include:
- The performance of contract tracing
- Communication of public health messaging
- Whether the testing regime met expectations
- If saliva or antigen testing should be used more fully
- The legality of orders issued around testing and self-isolation
The contact tracing was well short of the 80% benchmark recommended by then medical researcher, now MP Dr Ayesha Verrall last year.
Communication was confused.
A lot of tests were done but we don’t know if the regime met expectations.
Other countries and private businesses here are using saliva tests. We need to know if more could and should be used here.
That Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield issued a section 70 health order on isolation and testing for contacts and casual contacts of the February cluster on Friday raises questions about the legality of requirements before that.
“National thought the call to go out of Level 3 in February was bold and ambitious. At the time we didn’t know the source of the original case, there were two new community cases that day and not all of the high school students had been tested,” Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.
“It has since resulted in a week long lockdown for Auckland. These lockdowns are costing the economy half a billion dollars each week. It’s the reason this yo-yoing in and out of lockdown must be avoided.
“This week we’ve found out that our contact tracing isn’t the ‘gold standard’ the Government would have us think. We haven’t met critical measures in the latest two outbreaks, and all locations of interest haven’t been disclosed to the public.”
Ms Collins says it is clear public health messaging needs to be improved.
“This week a young woman was vilified by the Prime Minister and her Government for following the advice she received. This has highlighted the lack of urgency shown by the Ministry of Health to follow up on unanswered texts or calls.
There are reports that the young man who went to the gym had been told he didn’t have to self-isolate after his test too.
“How the domestic border is managed needs improvement too. There were long queues of people trying to get back to Auckland last weekend, and late on Friday afternoon students trying to head home from boarding school were blocked from being reunited with their families at the border with no reasonable explanation.
“We should always be aiming to improve our response, so we should have an inquiry into why Auckland had to back into Level 3 less than two weeks after coming out of a lockdown.
“Going into lockdown should be our last resort and that means making sure our response to any community outbreak is comprehensive.
“If anything, this week has shown New Zealand there is a lot we can work on in our response when community cases arise. We should always be aiming to improve, so an inquiry into the Valentine’s Day cluster is appropriate.
Among the improvements needed is a more nuanced response to lockdowns. If Sydney can contain community outbreaks by locking down suburbs but leaving the rest of the city, and the state, free, why can’t a similar approach be taken here? Does the whole of Auckland have to go to Level 3 and the rest of the country to Level 2 every time there’s community transmission somewhere in the city?
If the government doesn’t take a very serious look at what happened – what went well and what didn’t – it won’t learn and if it doesn’t learn any mistakes made this time could well be made again at huge cost to individuals, families, businesses, events and the country.