23 Jun 2020

Woodhouse sticks with claim homeless man entered isolation hotel

7:50 pm on 23 June 2020

The Director-General Health says that reports of a homeless man sneaking into a managed isolation hotel by posing as a new arrival may well be an urban myth.

Michael Woodhouse

Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

National Party health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse last week said a homeless man had managed to bluff his way into a five-star hotel for a 14 day stay.

He's sticking by his claim.

At today's Covid-19 media briefing however, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said there was no evidence that had taken place.

"As far as we can tell this cannot be verified and may well be an urban myth, sorry to disappoint you there," he said.

Watch: Dr Bloomfield addresses the rumour

Bloomfield said that if anyone did have information he would like to hear from them.

Woodhouse said his comments were justified.

"I was careful to say that they were unverified, but the source was reliable and that it warranted investigation, the absence of any evidence does not mean it did not occur and the Ministry has a bit of a track record of missing things," he said.

He said on the balance of probabilities it was more likely than not to be true.

"My source is highly reliable, in the health sector and close to the management of that hotel, that person has given me sufficient details of what has occurred, that I tend to believe. I have released some of those details and that's where my role ends," he said.

The Minister overseeing isolation facilities is calling Woodhouse's bluff.

In a letter to Woodhouse, Megan Woods said she did not take his claim lightly and asked officials to urgently provide her with any information that the Crowne Plaza may have about the alleged incident.

"After conducting staff interviews, a thorough review of records and an assessment of CCTV footage at the hotel, no evidence has been found to back up your claim that this man resided in the hotel for those 14 days."

Woods said the investigation involved going through the records of all 1,706 people who had been through the facility.

She said Woodhouse claimed his source has good evidence, so she needed to receive more information from him.

"We've certainly spent a huge amount of staff time who are already working around the clock to keep New Zealanders safe in our managed isolation facilities, so if he has more evidence I'd like to see him bring it to me," he said.

Senior New Zealand First minister Shane Jones accused National of scaremongering and spreading false claims.

Jones said it was poor form from the Opposition.

"It's a shallow attempt to spread fear and confusion and now the acid is on the MP to stack up that apocryphal story," he said.

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