Government must come clean on women’s border crossing debacle

The admission that the Ministry of Social Development mistakenly granted travel exemptions to two women who subsequently tested positive for Covid and contributed to the Northland lockdown requires an immediate explanation from the Government, says National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston.

“The Government needs to explain how these two women were granted an exemption by MSD, only for that exemption to be subsequently revoked. How long and for what reasons has MSD been granting exemptions?

“Did these two women have essential worker status? If so, what for?

“The precise date the exemption was revoked and when and how MSD communicated this revocation to the two women are critical questions we need answers to now.

“There must be accountability for what appears to a gross error in judgment.

“How can it be that people willing to move heaven and earth to take safety precautions are denied exemptions every day, yet people who’ve been uncooperative with authorities are given carte blanche to cross boundaries?

“For days the Government has kept New Zealanders in the dark about how these two women could cross the boundary.

“It appears, on the face of it, that negligence by the Ministry of Social Development may be responsible for putting New Zealander’s further risk of Covid.

“What checks did MSD have in place to validate the claims these applicants made? How many other cases has MSD been involved in?

“Many New Zealanders who apply for exemption to visit dying relatives, visit unwell loved ones, or to go to work are denied exemptions to travel every day.

“Law-abiding New Zealanders who have made sacrifices to protect the country from Covid deserve an explanation as to why these two women were wrongly granted an exemption.

“It is not good enough that this information only came out via a radio interview.

“Epidemiologist Michael Baker was right to say ‘there so many holes in the system you could drive a truck through it’.

“The Government should have been upfront with New Zealanders from the start about these two cases, which have contributed to the entire Northland region going into an Alert Level 3 lockdown.”