23 Jun 2020

Seven days and counting and still no answer from Bloomfield

6:01 pm on 23 June 2020

"I will get you that number - I'm sorry I haven't got it - I'd like to have it as well.''

It's been a week and counting since the Director-General of Health was first asked how many people have left managed isolation without being tested for Covid-19.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Today Dr Ashley Bloomfield again fronted media without an answer, and repeatedly apologised for not being able to provide it.

The question was prompted by the case of two women being given compassionate leave to travel down the North Island on 13 June to be with a dying parent.

They later tested positive on 16 June after being allowed to leave isolation without first getting a test.

Prior to 9 June, there was no requirement for those leaving facilities to be tested as everyone had to undergo 14 days of mandatory isolation.

Since the country moved to level 1 on 9 June, Dr Bloomfield's instructions have been for testing to take place on day three and day 12 of isolation.

"Clearly the implementation, there was a breakdown in communication there, that's what I clarified last week.

"Testing around day three and day 12 is a requirement,'' he said.

Just how many people left without being tested will quantify how big the gaps were at the border at a time when Bloomfield and government ministers were under the impression everyone leaving isolation was being tested.

Earlier today Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said work was being done on getting an answer and it was for Dr Bloomfield to share.

At his 1pm press conference today there was still no word on what the number was or when it might be known.

Dr Bloomfield said the ministry was still following up with 2159 people who had left managed isolation between 9 and 16 June, and urged anyone in that category - which included people who had exemptions and those at the Novotel - to contact the dedicated health number (09 302 0408).

"Yes, I'd like to be able to give that number to you but the matching work is still ongoing.''

"As soon as I found out about the two cases on 16 June, within the hour a message went out to all the facilities,'' he said.

While some leaving isolation after 9 June were tested, others weren't, and Bloomfield said follow-up phone calls are under way.

Of the 2159 who left isolation between 9 and 16 June, 55 did so after being granted compassionate exemptions.

Bloomfield has also been unable to say how many of those people were not tested before leaving.

"I don't I'm sorry, the teams are working all the time and the numbers are changing all the time,'' he said.

"I am keen to get them as soon as possible and I want to share them with you when I'm confident in the numbers."

Asked why it was so hard, Bloomfield said he wished it was easier and linking up data "is one of the key challenges for the health care system''.

He said it was not a case of health officials being "obstructive'' and following up with those who left isolation had been done with urgency.

"We have thrown a lot of resource at this and will continue to,'' he said.

Health Minister David Clark said Covid-19 was a new virus and "obviously there's been times through this response where things have not been perfect''.

He said he was proud of the health officials who have sought to fix things when they've gone wrong.

"When a mistake has been made, it's been owned and it's been fixed.''

Clark said health officials are working on getting the information and have "received some very clear messages over the last week and they are now doing a thorough job''.

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