17 Jun 2020

Todd Muller calls for Health Minister David Clark to be sacked

12:07 pm on 17 June 2020

Opposition leader Todd Muller has called for Health Minister David Clark to be sacked over the handling of quarantine exemptions after two new Covid-19 cases were revealed yesterday.

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Health Minister David Clark. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Meanwhile Clark told RNZ the military may have the right expertise to oversee managed isolation.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed yesterday the two new cases - both women who had arrived from the UK - were allowed to leave isolation to travel from Auckland to Wellington in a private vehicle to visit their dying parent.

Bloomfield said they had close contact only with the parent and one other family member during the trip, while other contacts - for example at the Novotel Ellerslie hotel in Auckland managed isolation facility and at Customs - were being stood down, tested and isolated.

Clark told RNZ yesterday he had asked for all such compassionate exemptions to be temporarily suspended until he was confident that "things are happening as they should" at the borders.

Muller told RNZ's Morning Report the stakes were too high for the rules not to be followed. He doubled down on that later in the morning, releasing a statement calling for Clark to be sacked.

"Everyone knows Health Minister David Clark is out of his league - and that from day one the Prime Minister has been running the health portfolio and every aspect of the Covid-19 response," Muller said in the statement.

He said international media was now "panning us for lax border controls and being unsafe".

"The sacrifice of the 'team of five million cannot be put at risk by a clumsy and incompetent government that allows bureaucrats to run the show by deciding which of the rules they are going to apply on any given day.

"The government only does that when it's covering for a weak minister. David Clark needs to be sacked."

Muller said there had been multiple incidents in recent weeks where management of the coronavirus had been left wanting, naming lax controls at Auckland's Crowne Plaza hotel, being used as a managed isolation facility, and the government's moves to allow Avatar movie crews through the border.

Clark told RNZ's Nine to Noon the Health Ministry currently has oversight of managed isolation and that was now under review.

He suggested the military could oversee the quarantine.

"We may need to strengthen the oversight," he told Nine to Noon.

"A lot of it's logistics and making sure systems are in place. One could question whether it might be somebody in the military who might have that expertise."

Clark said he would be closely looking at the issue in the next 24 hours.

The minister said he wanted an audit of those who had received exemptions from managed isolation related to Covid-19.

Asked if he would audit everyone who had been granted exemptions, he said he wanted to know who they were and what their situation was.

Muller said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern needed to make "another captain's call" to protect New Zealanders' jobs and their family income by adopting the border rules the National Party proposed last week.

Ardern yesterday said that the government was reviewing what had happened because they "cannot be repeated".

She said the government was taking the issue seriously and referred to the instance it was taken to court by a man in mandatory quarantine wanting to visit his dying father.

Despite the government placing a temporary ban on compassionate exemptions, people can still apply to leave Covid-19 managed isolation facilities for other reasons.

People can still seek exemptions for medical reasons, critical work, transit or extradition. The government said these requests would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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