‘Failure’: Jacinda Ardern’s virus fury
New Zealand National Party leader Todd Muller says the nation's Health Minister's head should roll over the coronavirus border blunder, which allowed two women from the UK into the country who have now tested positive to COVID-19.
New Zealand had gone over three weeks without an active case, celebrating being one of the first countries in the world to eradicate the virus.
Mr Muller said the two new cases, who are part of the same family, tested positive on Tuesday in Wellington, the country's capital, after travelling to New Zealand to visit a dying relative.
Strict border controls are in place in New Zealand, with people who aren't citizens or essential workers not allowed in unless they have exceptional circumstances.
Mr Muller said this "blunder" will take a major economic toll on New Zealand because it will push back the trans-Tasman bubble and the return of international students.
Mr Muller said it was not the first time New Zealand's Health Minister David Clark had messed up, and that he was "furious" that border protocols weren't properly followed, which led to the two women being allowed to leave managed isolation in Auckland on compassionate grounds without being tested.
It is understood the two women who flew to New Zealand from Britain tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.
They were allowed to leave their managed isolation at the Novotel Ellerslie in Auckland to drive to Wellington, on the basis they were tested in the capital. Those tests returned positive results yesterday.
The women said they did not stop for fuel or supplies on their road trip. They apparently took a toilet stop on the side of the road.
One of the women had mild symptoms before being tested, but this was put down to a pre-existing condition.
It is also unclear whether their daily health checks in isolation were carried out properly, which may have picked up one of the woman's mild symptoms and led to their leave being denied.
"The fact that officials have the ability to decide themselves on any given day what elements of the rules they think should apply or not apply is untenable and it needs to be urgently fixed," Muller said.
"The opportunity to open up to international students has definitely been delayed. The opportunity to open up a trans-Tasman bubble has been delayed.
"It undermines confidence in our border management, and that is completely unacceptable when you think about the thousands of jobs that are expected to be lost over the next weeks and months."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to the new cases in New Zealand, saying there will be a review into how the women entered the country.
In a Facebook Live post, Ardern said standards had not been met.
"This case is clear - our expectations … have not been met in this instance," she said.
"The two cases that came in from overseas that were announced today were not announced under the circumstances that we would have expected at our border.
"We are reviewing exactly what has happened in these circumstances because they cannot be repeated.
"Ultimately, after taking a look at what has happened here there is already an expectation that no one leaves quarantine until they have completed their two weeks (isolation) and have been tested.
"Of course that was our expectation already, so that is where there is a failure in this case."
New Zealand's Police Minister Stuart Nash, who appeared on Newstalk ZB, said that someone needed to be held to account for the bungle.
"I cannot repeat the words on your show that I said when I heard what had happened," Mr Nash said, using language far stronger than Health Minister David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
"Someone does need to be held to account. We need to have a review of what's happening in quarantine because it's totally unacceptable, when five million Kiwis do it real tough.
"To get this sort of ineptitude, man it is unforgivable. As David said, he's cancelled compassionate dispensation and there's a review of the system. Let's make sure it doesn't happen again."
Health Minister David Clark said there will be consequences for the people who had made the mistake.
"I want it fixed. That's my first priority," he told New Zealand''s Newstalk ZB's radio host, Mike Hosking.
"There will be consequences if it's found people have failed in their duty. I am quite certain that people who have made this mistake will not be making it again.
"We have to find out exactly what happened … it's fallen short of what New Zealanders expect. I am very disappointed."
Originally published as 'Failure': Jacinda Ardern's virus fury