Abject incompetence

14/04/2021

The NZ Herald opines that unvaccinated border staff are our Achilles heel:

The red-letter issue in the Millennium Hotel chain of cases, however, is the lack of vaccination and testing which was exposed. Despite working in a managed isolation and quarantine facility, neither Case B nor C had been vaccinated.

Today’s Health Select Committee has discovered another vulnerability:

A security worker at Auckland’s Grand Millennium managed isolation facility, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, had not been previously tested since November.

Carolyn Tremain, chief executive of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – which oversees managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) – made the revelation on Wednesday at a parliamentary committee.

Tremain said the worker was tested on April 7, which is when he tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to that, she said records show he was last tested in November, despite the law stating he should be tested fortnightly.

Fortnightly? why not saliva tests every day?

“What we have identified through the case investigation process… is that there are some inconsistencies in the recording of when testing occurs,” Tremain told the Health Select Committee.

“We don’t have evidence that testing has been conducted from our systems on the frequency that we would prefer it to be.” . . 

Prefer it to be?

That’s as weak as Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield saying he would have hoped the latest case would have been vaccinated by now.

Preferred and hoped are simply not good enough when the consequences of workers contracting Covid-19 are so bad not just for their own health but for the risk of community transmission with all the health, social and economic costs that come from that.

What makes this worse is the game-playing by Labour MPs in the Select Committee:

. . .But the committee hearing – a key opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of officials – soon descended into a squabble between Labour MPs and National Party Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop, as his attempts to question officials on the shortcomings were railroaded by the Labour MPs interested in more anodyne matters. . . 

Despite the pressing issues, the health select committee, steered by Invercargill-based Labour list MP Dr Liz Craig, instead asked the officials to talk about the “basic science” behind how the managed isolation system had been set up.

For more 20 minutes during the opening of the session, Bloomfield canvassed the increased understanding that “airborne transmission” of the virus was a risk, and what was known about the spread of the more infectious B117 Covid-19 variant in India.

MBIE deputy chief executive Megan Main detailed the “customer journey” that returnees have, from learning about the MIQ system, to entering a hotel and subsequently leaving.

“That’s really, really useful,” Craig said, offering up a few more minutes for the speakers to talk about this widely accessible information. 

Bishop’s attempts to ask questions were frustrated by Labour MPs on the committee. A one stage, he was visibly frustrated, holding his head in his hands. . . 

“Government MPs need to reflect very seriously on the way in which they are treating the Opposition on select committees and shielding officials from scrutiny,” Bishop told reporters afterwards.

He said it was “quite staggering” that the security guard had not been tested for six months. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough it got worse:

How hard is it to keep a record of who the workers are, who’s been tested, when they’re tested and which ones are vaccinated?

This is basic record keeping. That it’s not happening shows the system needs far more checks and balances than preferences and hopes.

That workers aren’t tested as they ought to be and that not all are vaccinated yet is bad enough. That records are so poor no-one knows who is tested and vaccinated is abject incompetence.

This information came out in spite of attempts to silence the Opposition. I wonder if there was anything else that we need to know that would have come out had the Labour MPs not been playing silly games?


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