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.”

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