3 Mar 2021

Covid-19: Hipkins backs Ardern after Case L says she wasn't told to isolate

10:20 pm on 3 March 2021

The Covid-19 Response Minister is defending the Prime Minister's version of events after a KFC worker who later tested positive for the virus insisted the family was not told to isolate.

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Photo: Google Maps

Yesterday, Jacinda Ardern said about 15 texts and phone calls were made to Case L's family, after she told media she wasn't told to stay at home.

One of Case L's siblings is a Year 10 Papatoetoe High School student, Case I.

Case I was considered a "casual plus" contact of the first Papatoetoe High School student who tested positive.

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Photo: RNZ/Vinay Ranchhod

Chris Hipkins said the school community was told on 17 February that everyone in an affected household needed to get a test.

At the Covid-19 press conference that day, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also said all Papatoetoe High School households should isolate.

"Staff, students and their households are being asked to work from home or stay at home for the rest of this week, and to avoid large gatherings and inviting visitors around," Dr Bloomfield said.

On Wednesday, Hipkins said Case L went to work while two other members of the household were showing symptoms.

"The two siblings started to show symptoms on the 19th and the 20th, and the person went to work on the 22nd, despite the fact that at that point, there were two people in the household showing symptoms and no one had been tested," he said.

"The reality is, there is certainly enough information there that the person shouldn't have been going to work," he said.

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Hipkins insists Case L should have known they weren't supposed to go to work Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

But Case L insists they weren't told to self-isolate or get tested earlier.

Unite Union national secretary John Crocker is representing Case L.

He said the advice Case L and her sibling (a Kmart worker known as Case J) received changed after they went to work.

"Her position is that she followed instructions that were given to her and it's not appropriate for the prime minister to call her, or other members of her family out for doing the wrong thing when they followed instructions," Crocker said.

"There have been mistakes made, and possibly some of those have been in the community, but some of those have been among officials as well, and that needs to be admitted," Crocker said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

A representative for Case L says she didn't think it was fair for the prime minister to call her out for doing the wrong thing, when she followed the instructions given to her Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

He said Case I - Case L's sibling - received advice that they needed to be tested, but their family didn't.

"That was quite clear and that was reiterated several times," said Crocker.

Meanwhile the government has come under fire in the last 24-hours after it was revealed that their 'Unite Against COVID-19' Facebook page appeared to contradict Ardern's claim that Case L went to work when she was required to isolate.

When a member from the public raised the topic on the Facebook page on 26 February, a response in the comments section from the government's team said Case L was not required to isolate at the time.

Bloomfield said not all facts were known at the time that comment was written.

"That was a comment about the general advice that had gone to all families, without at that point, the knowledge that there were members of the family who had been symptomatic and should have been tested earlier than perhaps they were," he said.

Bloomfield reiterated that everyone tested in relation to a community outbreak needs to stay at home.

"Anyone who is symptomatic should get a test quickly, and they should stay at home until they get that test," he said.

"Clearly, in a situation where we have an outbreak like this, that also means that family members of someone who is symptomatic should also wait at home until that test comes back," said Bloomfield.

Hipkins said that repeated attempts were made to contact the family.

"Nine phones calls and three text messages to one of the cases from the 15th to the 21st, six phone calls and three text messages to another one of the cases during that period of time where advice specific to family's circumstances could have been given to them," he said.

On Tuesday, Papatoetoe High School Principal Vaughan Couillault confirmed that an abundance of communication via text, Facebook and email had been sent to school students and their families throughout the outbreak.

Meanwhile Crocker said Case L is under a lot of pressure and been subjected to a lot of online bullying.

Hipkins said bullying was not okay, nor helpful.

"Human beings are human beings, people do make mistakes. We want people who have made mistakes to continue to come forward... but the abuse and bullying we see from time to time isn't okay," he said.

This is the advice Auckland Regional Public Health Service said was given to Papatoetoe High School students and their families:

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