Isolation exemptions on compassionate grounds for overseas arrivals no longer allowed until system starts 'working as intended'

Isolation exemptions on compassionate grounds for overseas arrivals no longer allowed until system starts 'working as intended'
Ashley Bloomfield. Getty Images.

Overseas arrivals will no longer be able to leave 14-day managed isolation on compassionate grounds (IE to see a dying relative).

Health Minister David Clark made the decision following two overseas arrivals only being tested for COVID-19 after they were released from isolation a week early on compassionate grounds.

The two women were permitted to drive from Auckland to Wellington on Saturday (June 13). They were tested in Wellington and today (June 16) found out they had COVID-19.

Clark said exemptions from self-isolation on compassionate grounds would be banned until the Government could be confident the system was “working as intended”.

“Compassionate exemptions should be rare and rigorous and it appears that this case did not include the checks that we expected to be happening. That’s not acceptable,” he said.

Indeed, the Ministry of Health on June 9 said: "From today everyone in managed isolation will be tested twice for COVID-19 and will require a negative result before they leave.”

It on Tuesday reiterated: “Recent changes to managed isolation will see everyone being tested on days 3 and 12. Anyone granted compassionate dispensation must have tested negative before they can leave managed isolation.”

Interest.co.nz has asked the Ministry how then the two women were allowed out before being tested.

“Our border measures are a key line of defence against COVID-19 and we must ensure they are as robust as possible,” Clark said.

“The Director General will be reviewing the processes around these latest two cases…

“I have asked the Director General to consider if there are any other measures we can put in place to strengthen our health protections at the border.”

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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75 Comments

24
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Funny how all the people who have been pressuring the govt to drop the levels, open the borders, bring in the foreign students are now turning around and jumping up and down about this. Now maybe, if the rules get really strict they will shut up and just let the job be done.

13
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Another cluster-fk

19
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so the govt presides upon an enormous cock up - therefore its critics are to blame. Logical..

No one is blaming the critics, just pointing out how hypocritical they are.

Hypocrisy would look more like this: "we don't need a 14 day quarantine" or "we don't need to test people before we release them".

The underlying assumption behind all of these proposals to allow anyone in, is that they are being quarantined and tested before release.
In this case there was loads of time to get that done, but it didn't happen. No excuses.

Yeah awesome let's have stricter rules, less feeedoms, more force. Because that always fixes things.

Thank you for making my point for me

Many wish for "rules", call them process and procedure were performed, as the higher ups had described.
Thinking the process was in good order, is the basis for opening...
Remembering many, many folk work, at work within well defined and relied on process, systems and teamwork.
Consider the cut that's made when NZers find being let down by the teamwork, cuts deep.

We have stricter rules in place because there are always some people not following rules. If these two people followed the rules at the first place, there wont be stricter rules. People are the factors how rules are made. If lots of people are breaking rules, of course there will be stricter rules and forces in place.

As far as I've read, they did follow the rules. They were given compassionate leave and allowed to break from mandatory isolation, to travel down from Auckland to Wellington. They shouldn't have been allowed to do so. I feel for them, but it was not worth risking the further loss of lives. The fault really lies with the system allowing this.

I feel for them too, but rules are in place for reasons, especially under this Covid situation. You said they followed the rules, but if they wanted to follow the 14 days mandatory isolation, they wouldn't apply for exception in the first place. Applying for exception means whatever events you have are more important than other people's lives. If you wanted to follow the rules, why couldn't you come early to finish isolation or postpone the funeral a bit later? I am not blaming the family. I am just thinking maybe there is something extra that Government can do. For example, encouraging people from oversea to plan their trip one / two months early if there is an important event coming up. You can't just set up rules for people and also give compassionate exceptions to break those rules.

I agree that there shouldn't have been any exceptions to the rules here. But there are always going to be people that will apply for an exception if they are able to, whether right or wrong. The government was responsible for ensuring that no exceptions were made that risked the lives of others. I do believe that people themselves have personal responsibility, when choosing to try and make use of exceptions and loopholes etc, that is certainly fair. Just abiding by the law doesn't make you a good person or your choices right. They still did as they were allowed to do. Both are wrong here. But the government is ultimately responsible for allowing this to happen. They hold the power and should have made no exceptions.

They cocked it up. Nothing to do with level 1.

19
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Well I hope nobody dies or is seriously ill long term from this. Great to see the reporting of what could and has happened. I personally think we are too lax in NZ, it’s kinda all good bro, take the Avatar crew, personal accounts of people mixing unknowingly at the time in the foyer as they arrived, then x days later good news story on 1 about how they had been in a single room for 14days.
I fear there is no real Captain at the Helm.

Why would anyone die?

You're being obtuse. Clearly they're referring to the consequence should a cluster develop due to these women.

22
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A right royal cockup. We stumble from one disaster to the next with a dose of good luck, meanwhile the 'queen" is still overpaid

with any luck nobody will be infected as a result of this, but it might help to dethrone our socialist "queen".

What about the Tracking App ? Are these people not supposed to use them ? Now the government has to track all the people these two might have come in contact with and keep track of them.

Not another b-----y App! I hear there are 100 Apps in the pipeline. What's wrong with the Gestapo handbook (without the ethnic cleansing part of course)......just the old-fashioned way done methodically and strictly?

22
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Seems to have been a total absence of what most of us would consider to be routine protocols for arrivals from a high-risk destination.

Highly embarrassing and quite unacceptable given the stakes.

Standard public service procedures. Solve the problem by finding some person(s) to blame. But don’t punish them because that would be immoral persecution and they might cry. The usual culprit is lack of hard training and unintelligent and/or egotistical application of the relative rules and regulations.

20
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A doozy of a screw up. Can't believe that one of the women had mild symptoms and tests weren't undertaken due to it being attributed to pre-existing condition. Test. Test. Test. And on top of that people coming in from US, UK, Brazil and other untethered covid zones should be assumed to be covid positive (ie. Have a directive in place to ensure that strictest management possible until they exit isolation). They've buckled due to the crap they got over not allowing people in NZ to attend funerals during lockdown and it's now manifested as covid imports. Unfortunate.

One woman realised in hindsight that she had had mild symptoms, clearly she did not mention them beforehand. And yes, we must tighten up but this time I hope the pressure coming from the Hoskings, Plunkets, HDPA etc and the opposition, latest is we must open up to Chinese students, University can take care of their isolation, will STFU and stop stirring up the public.

Your referring the blame for this to hosking to try and take the heat off the gov and MOH. AB admitted they didnt ask some simple questions. This is what I always feared and knew that the handling from the beginning is to a very very low standard. Plenty of assurances are given though. Like the PPE cockup and JAs denial with a smile. Or the email directive from JAs office to not answer media questions because they don't have to and the approval ratings were high.

'Hard and early' strikes again.

"Kindness" is no substitute for accountability.

And yet we are still the country with the best result thus far, and I venture to suggest, after this. It is looking to me like these two women took their role seriously, it was the two teens whose behaviour was far more dangerous, although, there is not concern about them having the virus.
I'd still rather this than foreign students coming here with the Uni supervising their quarantine, thanks all the same.

Rubbish, Taiwan has done way better than us and have to cope with 4M tourists from China along with a population 5x NZ.
You need to take the Rose coloured blinders off for two minutes. Do you think the 3 weeks of just giving people a bit of paper saying "Please self isolate and sort things out yourself" was acceptable at the start of this ?

A report I read yesterday said that she was asked "are you OK?" to which she said yes. She was apparently not asked about specific symptoms.

It really stinks of nepotism.

13
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A clear indication that it will be some time before our borders are fully open and there is mass and free movement with today's news of the two women with Co-vid and the two quarantined teenagers do a runner.
As an example, given the ongoing Co-vid fiasco in the USA with increasing daily rates of infections, it will be sometime before our borders are open with the USA and those countries with open borders with it.
Think the time of the widespread availability of a vaccine as a starting point.
Just a guess - I would bet more than 18 months.

We will be the last to reopen. Others have already said this and they're quite right

BS the only reason some other places are opening up is because they are on a hiding to nothing having completely failed to contain the virus

Yep no point trying to contain this in a country that has gone Viral. Brazil the UK and the USA are stuffed among others that cannot eliminate it now without a vaccine

Sweden is another, the head medical officer decided on a herd immunity, problem was this virus has not played ball and at last survey they only had 7% infected, they need to hit 60% so that path will not work for this virus without the help of a vaccine.
https://www.ft.com/content/4f6ad356-9f61-4728-a9aa-3fa1f232035a

Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro, Duterte...sacrifice the lowly folk for the important folk.

Really, didn't realise that the virus could target just poor people, just amazing I assume you can back your statement up with facts and not just one eyed bluster?

At risk by the likes of the two women (no doubt saw themselves as responsible) and the two teenage runners (couldn't give a stuff), the tens of billions of loss to the NZ economy, and the tens of billions of dollars of government assistance to be all for nothing.

There's a very good chance it was for nothing anyway. How do you track something maybe half of infected don't even know they have? How sustainable is it to shut ourselves off from the world for years waiting for a vaccine? And to what end? To try and prevent something that barely affects anyone, or at least directly. The repercussions from the panic on the other hand are affecting hundreds of millions everywhere. If you wanted to define futile, our quant little country hiding under the covers certainly seems a vivid illustration to me. And then patting ourselves on the back for it....it would almost be comical if it wasn't screwing the poor so royally.

denature
There is some truth in some of what you say.
In terms of the global economy machinery, our little NZ cog is fine but many of the rest (e.g. USA) are a stuffed so the efficient functioning of the global economy and movement of people (for both tourism and business) ain't likely to return to the past normal - not if we want to protect our good little cog.
Looking like NZ may have an isolationist policy by default? :)

Bring back level 4 now!

Noticed the smirking newly confident David Clark on TV tonight,laying down the law, overjoyed that Bloomfield is in the hot seat and not him for once.
Or putting Bloomfield in it, in a subtle way? while pretending that he has not been, as Minister, presiding over ongoing highly dodgy airport assessment and quarantine of large numbers of incoming COVID over the last 5 months.
Or maybe that is Lees Galloway's cross to bear/buck to pass?

Clark was sidelined at start of lockdown by Ardern as she wanted to do all the press conferences. I'd be pretty frustrated by that serious undermining of my job if I were him.

What's happened to Ministerial Responsibility.
"Things not working as intended"

This is DCs second swing and a miss.
Does he know that he can resign by himself (maybe he waiting for a third).

Also yesterday, Nash in Police regarding police checking and police approving of the shooter..
"Things not working as intended".

And to make a list of 3, add in Kiwibuild.
There's your hat trick!

Was it not Winnie that came up with the "Three strikes and your out" ? How appropriate.

Why are they not gone already? Incompetent Health and Immigration ministers. Just give it to some military personnel already, give them a mandate and let them do their thing.

16
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I am starting to think we controlled this out of luck first time around with halfwits running the country. We won the battle but cant win a war relying on luck. I dont have a good feeling on this now with imbeciles in charge. Taxinda will just laugh this off again and put us all back on the wage subsidy and benefit.

We need to start blacklisting or stricter quarantine certain country arrivals, UK, US, Brazil and i am sure the list will grow. Just cant take chances anymore

But I thought they reacted hard and fast?? Did I miss anything?

Fast and loose

3 months they have had to get good systems figured out and in place, yet they've failed, again, just as the coalition does on everything that requires effective management and delivery of results. It's become normal rather than surprising. 3 more years of this incompetence?

If Adern captained a cricket team she would be the type that would see an edge fly through a vacant slip region so only then puts a slip in even though the balls been hooping around since the first over.

True, allowing the opposition to crawl from 26/9 to 38 all out .
New captain required.

16
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If the two women were released early from isolation/quarantine on compassionate grounds and allowed to drive from Auckland to Wellington, one would assume that the authorities must have discussed a plan/procedure with them to cover possible needs for fuel, food and toilet breaks at a minimum. It’s hard to imagine the government would have encouraged the two women to use a roadside hedge as a toilet. It’s also somewhat insulting to remind the public that the reappearance of the virus highlights the need for us all to be vigilant, when the government clearly lacks such attributes themselves, especially in this case.

10
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Let's do a system check.
1 Did the pair both download the MoH APP.
2 Have the pair kept a diaries.
3 How is the track & trace system working.
Does Auckland dhb and Wellington dhb track and trace systems talk to each other, can south island dhb see the case detail.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.rnz.co.nz/article/42abec62-5dbb-466f-b6...

The World Health Organisation is urging New Zealand to further develop its contact tracing systems, in case there's another outbreak.

10
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So if you ever wanted a better example on how a government has no ability to operationally put a policy in place in the real world this is it. Good luck if you think these guys can role out anything for an economic recovery other than throwing borrowed money out, hope you have a big fat piggy bank to help you through next two years.

Massive Fail.... !! identification at high risk points is critical BEFORE they spread it
Its clear this is not about the two individuals in question, but a screening/ process failure at the border

I think these people need name suppression, especially after the efforts NZ went through to contain and remove COVID in the first place, focus on the process not people...
People should be tested before they even get on an airplane and be tested immediately when they get off and tested + cleared before being released from quarantine, even if they leave early...

We still do not have a clear strategy on these high risk areas, imagine if they visited a sick person in a rest home?!
= Death toll increases due to stupidity...

Here is a view from a health professional, that calls out the system, but then seems gloss over the individual judgement, disclosure & responsibility of the guest travellers.
It seems conflicted, as often Dr B mentioned folk needing be self aware and accepting the community health crisis - teamwork, not letting the side down.

https://mobile.twitter.com/DrJinRussell/status/1272813784466251776

To the two UK women, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sad that a time of grief is a time of isolation for you. Thanks for being so diligent to keep NZ safe. I wish you a swift recovery from Covid, and then a restorative stay. There’s no shame, it’s the system. Arohanui, Jin

So MOH officials allowed the women to leave managed isolation. Knowing they had not been tested and without detailed questioning or other health checks with regards to symptoms. They also advised them to drive directly to Wellington 8 hours straight and only pee in the bushes on the side of the road and pop in for a test sometime after you get to Wellington. Because that is what they told them to do. That is exactly what they did and we are not going to ask them any questions that would disclose otherwise. Here's some.
What time did they check out of the hotel? What time did they leave Auckland? What time did they arrive in Wellington? What make and model of the car were they driving? What is its fuel consumption? Did they take food and drink with them in the car for the 8 hours and 635km drive?
Just over a month ago a man had to go the high court to force authorities to allow him to leave isolation to visit his dying father. Authorities had refused to test him for Covid19 so he could prove he was not infected and strengthen his case. Because he did not have any symptoms. Has something about this virus changed?
Under alert level, 2. 142 exemptions were granted on compassionate grounds to leave managed isolation. Were all of those people tested prior to release?

there is a disconnect between MOH and the DHB, the DHB supply the doctors and nurses supervising the lockdown running temp check and tests, the MOH set policy and do the paperwork.
as had happen all the way through this policy is set then it is left to the clinicians to carry out that policy, how many mistakes have we had all the way through this where we questions are raised by media AB stands there and says I don't want to second guess clinicians, they are the ones on the ground making the medical decisions, well guess what bud they left you with egg on your face its time you tell them if you say test they test and you ring the head of the DHB and give him/her a blast

Well I guess the whole lockdown effort was in vain huh?

When things are going well, Jacinda takes the praise and people hold her up there with Mother Theresa. When it goes to custard, it has nothing to do with her. The main cause of this was arrogance and complacency. The lefties need to let criticism of Jacinda get through otherwise arrogance will keep leading to incidents like this. Constructive criticism is so important to keep people on their heels, regardless of your political inclination. And it needs to start at the top if it is to trickle down to all involved.

Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.

We could see another 86 cases caused by this by mid July, government can hide the confirmed case numbers or get bashed by the public and go back to level3.

Or we could see another 0 local cases by mid July.

Lets just make up random numbers shall we?

The carefully crafted MOH presser says the exemption was because these two women had to go to wellington to comfort a relative after 'a' parent died. Whose parent is obscured - we are not informed if the travelling women shared the deceased parent. It could have been a distant cousin's parent or that of a relative by marriage. Perhaps it was a simple quarantine escape opportunity to attend a good old fashioned wake piss up. These might seem intrusive or even callous questions but given the pain of bereavement others have been forced to endure alone due to lockdown rules and the massive risk to our futures by this MOH negligence, they are pertinent. We need to know if this incident is an outcome of poor process under an obviously incompetent minister, MOH mismanagement of otherwise sound process (which Clark is indicating), an exception made for 'cultural' reasons or other explanation. Time for transparency.

What kind of leader tolerates incompetence?

Ardern, obviously. Twyford, Clark, Lees Galoway would all have been sacked in any other competent government.

Curran, Hipkins, Davis... all hopeless. Robertson sat on the Treasury Budget debacle and has RBNZ and Treasury mouthing off at each other.

Parker has been completely absent.

The only one who has been of any value is Faafoi... the rest i wouldnt trust to water my plants.

Apparently these women travelled from Auckland to Wellington without stopping for fuel. Can we find out what car they have cos thats some impressive fuel efficiency.

But these numbers are impressive.

More than 300 close contacts have been linked to two women who have tested positive for Covid-19, after being able to leave managed isolation early on compassionate grounds.

https://i.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/121855818/coronavirus-...

A sparsely-populated, isolated, yet rich country with essentially 1 point of entry (Auckland Airport) and months to prepare, somehow ended up having >1500 cases and numerous local clusters, and decided to lock down its own entire population (25 March) BEFORE mandatory quarantine of international travellers (10 April).

Yet we hail our political and techno leaders both national heroes. And her party polled at 59% best ever in history, despite its Health Minister flouting his own lockdown rules, TWICE!

The majority of the media serves the left. Jacinda can do no wrong.

To any neutral party it looks like a huge screw up and lost opportunity.

Hopefully there are no long term repercussions from this in respect of transmission of the virus. If so I'm glad it happened as it will hopefully stop some of the whinging about the need for quarantine and wanting exemptions.
Such a incident is probably needed to reinforce the reasons behind the whole policy. So international travelers, get use to it ok.

sigh...