Not enough New Zealanders are being tested for Covid-19 and the Government needs to get on top of it, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“With Australia reporting global shortages, the Minister needs to provide assurances to New Zealanders that we have sufficient testing supplies. Right now, they don’t even know how many they have.
“The public need to know how many days of testing at 1500 tests a day we can do. It’s not good enough that the Minister of Health can’t answer that question.
“For weeks it has been too hard to get tested. You have to go on Healthline for hours, are then told to contact a doctor and you need to have both symptoms and close contact to meet the criteria.
“If you need to self-isolate – you need to be tested.
“South Korea has shown how testing can get this virus under control and the World Health Organisation is saying ‘test, test, test’. Getting New Zealanders tested is the most important job the Minister has right now.
“Daily testing updates should also be provided alongside the case announcements to provide reassurance to Kiwis.
“National has been calling for more action in relation to testing for some time, it is long overdue for the Government to step up their regime by broadening the criteria.
“The criteria was widened to test the students at Logan Park High School earlier this week. This needs to be the new normal and the criteria should be broadened for everyone who needs to go into self-isolation.
“If we’re getting people tested sooner rather than later they can shorten the self-isolation period and enter back into the workforce.
“No expense should be spared in the fight against coronavirus. The Government must ensure all Kiwis are tested if they have symptoms.”
National is calling on the Government to widen its Covid-19 testing criteria so that anyone displaying clear symptoms can be tested, Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The rigid restrictions we have here are preventing people with Covid-19 symptoms from being tested, and are potentially hiding a much bigger coronavirus problem in New Zealand.
“The Government is only allowing tests for people with symptoms who have returned from a small list of countries or can prove close contact with a confirmed case.
“This is too restrictive and too many concerned Kiwis with coronavirus symptoms are being denied tests. There is no reason why tests should be rationed in New Zealand.
“The case of education worker Pippa Biggs, highlighted in media reports this morning, is troubling. She says she and her three children have symptoms that ‘tick the boxes’ for coronavirus but she can’t get tested because she can’t prove contact with a confirmed case.
“While news of only five Covid-19 cases and no community outbreak here is positive, our concern is that a lack of testing is the real reason New Zealand has so few confirmed cases.
“New Zealand’s test rate is shockingly low compared to other countries, at only 70 tests per million. Countries that have high numbers of confirmed cases also have much more comprehensive testing than we do.
“Italy is performing more than 800 tests per million people and the UK is performing almost 500 tests per million.
“Other countries are proactively testing for Covid-19 despite having few confirmed cases. We need to close the barn door on this virus before the horse bolts.
Examples of people who would fall foul of New Zealand’s current testing criteria include:
- A person entering New Zealand from Germany (where there are 2000+ cases) who has a strong cough.
- A person who sat next to a confirmed case on a 5-hour flight but is not displaying symptoms.
- Someone who was in hospital with a probable case and now has a fever.
“Testing for Covid-19 in New Zealand also appears confused. Pippa Biggs reportedly can’t get tested, yet NZ First MP Tracey Martin will be despite reportedly showing no symptoms.
“While we support Tracey Martin getting tested, and hope she remains in good health, the apparent inconsistency in who can access coronavirus tests is a worry.
“No expense should be spared in the fight against coronavirus. The Government must ensure all Kiwis are tested if they have symptoms.”
The border controls the Government claims to have in place are just another example of all talk and no delivery, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Australia has placed a travel ban on Italy. The situation around the world is evolving and the Government needs to be acting decisively and ensuring our border control is in line with our trans-tasman neighbours.
“New Zealanders need reassurance that the border controls in place are as effective as the Government says. This means applying a travel ban from Italy and South Korea.
“The Prime Minister claimed that the measures in place at New Zealand’s border are ‘some of the toughest in the world’ but the real and potential coronavirus cases that are passing through Auckland Airport puts that claim in serious doubt.
“New Zealand’s first confirmed coronavirus case was able to arrive back from Iran and leave Auckland Airport looking seriously ill, with no one stopping her or asking about her symptoms. Another probable case was able to walk out of Auckland Airport so ill she went straight into hospital on the same day, despite notifying border officials of her condition.
“There’s also a constant stream of stories both in the press and relayed to me privately about New Zealanders arriving from countries such as Italy and wandering through Auckland Airport without being spoken to.
“New Zealand can’t afford third rate delivery on border restrictions in the face of coronavirus. Every confirmed or probable case that walks through Auckland Airport is a risk to the public health of Kiwis and an indictment of this Labour/NZ First/Greens Government’s ability to keep us safe.”
An urgent investigation is needed into how a New Zealander returning from an overseas trip was admitted to hospital with a respiratory illness for five days but not tested for coronavirus, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Information disclosed publicly by the Director General of Health and to me directly indicates the woman, already unwell when boarding the flight to New Zealand, became very unwell on board. Despite this she appears not to have been screened at Auckland Airport.
“On admission to North Shore Hospital she declared her international travel and the fact she had been on a cruise ship. She spent five days in hospital with a lower respiratory tract infection but was not tested for the virus.
“It was only after United States authorities notified us that this person had been on the Grand Princess cruise ship that she met the Government’s criteria for a coronavirus test.
“Given health officials are currently stating the importance of finding every coronavirus case, it defies belief someone was able to walk in and out of a hospital with symptoms and without being tested.
“She’s now being treated as a probable case and more than 50 health staff are being asked to self-isolate, days after their contact.
“We don’t know how many people were in contact with those staff before the patient was identified and how many other people were in close contact with her. There are potentially hundreds of people who could be carriers because of this case.
“New Zealand’s health system hasn’t had enough support from the Minister. Now a case of coronavirus has slipped through our fingers. The Government urgently needs to take the following actions:
- Confirm no other patients have been in hospital with coronavirus symptoms that were not tested.
- Review any available CCTV footage of North Shore hospital during the period of her stay to understand whether other patients were in close contact.
- Confirm the discretion of health professionals to test potential coronavirus patients rather than rely on rigid and contested criteria.
“This Labour/NZ First/Greens Government has mismanaged the health system since they took office, but missing a case of coronavirus is unacceptable by even their standards and New Zealanders deserve better.”
Health Minister David Clark needs to show some leadership and resolve planned strike action on Friday by laboratory workers in labs currently testing for coronavirus, National’s Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“We’re in the midst of a public health emergency and the possibility of a strike at this crucial stage is unacceptable. More worrying is the possibility of ongoing strike action running until May.
“This strike action has potential to undermine the Government’s coronavirus testing efforts as they scale down tasks for the next two months and have a full day strike this Friday.
“On Monday the Government described the strike as ‘disappointing’, this is a huge understatement, it is nothing short of appalling. David Clark needs to step up and stop this strike from occurring. National will support any measures put forward by the Government that will prevent this strike from taking place.
“This is another case of David Clark’s terrible record on strike action that has seen a 600 per cent increase in strike days lost since he took office. The difference this time is that it’s come a time when New Zealand’s health system can’t afford any more of his strikes.”
David Clark is out of his depth and struggling to keep up with the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) coronavirus response, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“It took 12-15 hours for MOH to announce the second case of coronavirus, while the third positive case was blurted out by David Clark on the AM Show this morning completely lacking in detail and only causing more concern.
“There needs to be a firm process around how information is disseminated regarding the outbreak to ensure the public is fully informed, updates shouldn’t be randomly announced when the Minister needs something to say on TV.
“It’s important that the public is reassured and that information is conveyed quickly and effectively without risking the personal privacy of individuals effected.
“David Clark has been absent from most MOH briefings and has been dipping in and out of the response at random. The first community transmission was revealed this afternoon and David Clark was not even present.
“The Prime Minister didn’t even let him join her for her Post-Cab update on the outbreak. It’s clear there is a lack of confidence in his handling of the response and he is not connected with his officials.
“This is a big issue and the public needs clear and concise information to ensure panic doesn’t set in. The Minister needs to get this under control.”
The response to passengers who were travelling on EK450 - the flight the first passenger in New Zealand to have a confirmed case of Coronavirus was travelling on has been entirely inadequate, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“National has been contacted by a passenger who was on the flight who developed a cough after landing.
“He called Healthline asking whether he should go to the hospital for a check-up. He was told not to worry if his temperature is under 38 degrees. He was also advised to take Panadol which would lower a temperature.
“He was told that he would not need to self-isolate and could go to work on Monday. He has chosen to go into isolation anyway.
“The advice he has received is inconsistent and his causing him more stress and anxiety than is necessary.
“Health Minister David Clark should be directing his officials to track down everyone who was on that flight. It’s extraordinary that someone with flu like symptoms on this flight hasn’t been told to self-isolate.
“The Minister should be providing consistent public reassurance to prevent panic - it can no longer just be left to officials.”
David Clark has been missing in action on recent health issues, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Minister has all but left the coronavirus response to his officials, with the Director-General fronting public statements and many announcements taking place without him even being present.
“He’s also refused to comment on anti-depressant drug shortages and has shielded himself from media scrutiny on horrendous District Health Board (DHB) financial data by quietly publishing it online as discreetly as possible.
“David Clark is asleep at the wheel at a time when he should be leading by example. The New Zealand public is desperate for reassurance regarding the coronavirus outbreak but the Minister is ducking for cover.
“The Government’s coronavirus response has been too slow and has failed to provide confidence to businesses already struggling in a slowing economy.
“The Minister needs to front up and take control of his portfolio or New Zealanders’ health services will continue to worsen.”
The financial performance of District Health Boards (DHBs) is continuing to worsen under Health Minister David Clark’s leadership, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“DHB deficit for the first five months of the financial year is up to $231 million, a significant increase compared with $172 million in the same period last year and $65 million in 2017.
“The Ministry of Health has quietly released the data showing the continued deterioration of DHBs on its website, but it’s only accessible if it has been searched for and there is no mention of it in their News or Publications sections.
“Despite claiming to be the most open and transparent Government, David Clark is clearly trying to bury the facts and hope no one digs them up.
“The deficit is forecast to be more than half a billion by the end of the financial year.
“New Zealanders are suffering increased wait times and have had to endure a series of poorly-handled disease outbreaks. David Clark is failing to keep control of his portfolio and New Zealanders’ health services are suffering as a result.”
DHB sector financial reports can be found here
People who are possibly affected by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) are putting more effort into quarantining than the Government, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“While the Government is encouraging people to self-isolate, they’re offering no assistance to those in need of space to do so. Health Minister David Clark has been almost invisible while this major health scare has been unfolding. He needs to step up.
“Self-isolation is difficult for people who live in flatting, homestay or large family situations as they have nowhere to go to isolate them from those they share a home with.
“Some of those affected are sleeping in their cars as a form of self-isolation while the Government sits back and watches. There needs to be a safe space provided by the Government to ensure people can isolate themselves.
“Those who were evacuated from Wuhan and quarantined at the Whangaparoa camp are set to head home tomorrow, these facilities would be a logical location to keep people quarantined, should they wish to do so, until the threat is nullified.
“The Government is trying to track down people who have arrived into New Zealand from China who have not yet registered for self-isolation, meaning they have no idea where they’ve gone or who they’ve had contact with since they left the airport. The self-isolation policy is becoming a farce.
“The Government continues to be behind a step behind in this outbreak response. David Clark needs to make sure adequate quarantine facilities are available for those affected and protect New Zealand from this disease.”