Health Minister was told about Covid-19 community case just before polls closed

Source: 1News

Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Health Chris Hipkins have admitted being told about the case of community transmission last night, but they deny doing anything out of the ordinary in the handling the case despite it being election day.

Ardern said the Health Minister was informed about the positive result at 6.11pm last night by Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director General of Health.

The announcement of a new case of Covid-19 community transmission was made at 1pm today after an Auckland-based man who has been working most recently at Port Taranaki tested positive yesterday afternoon.

“I’m absolutely confident that we have done everything as we would usually do here," Ardern said.

“I’m told by the Minister of Health that he was informed at 6.11pm last night by the Director General of Health."

The case, revealed to Ardern and Hipkins just as polls were about to close, was not reported at the time because the ministry was following the usual timetable of reporting cases at 1pm. 

Hipkins said all the timeframes had been followed and the decision was made not to report the result before voting polls closed.

“I don’t think it would have been appropriate to have made that public before 7pm when the polls closed and in fact I didn’t even have time to consider if that would have been consistent with the prohibition of what we can do on election day."

“I didn’t have time to get advice on that,” he said.

Hipkins said the timeframe was “so tight” and the results would normally be announced at the 1pm briefing the following day anyway.

Ardern said today there was no need to for the country to move to a higher alert level. 

“There’s nothing to suggest the need to move any of the restriction levels,” she said.

“That’s of course because this is an individual that was already to be considered to be working in a high-risk area, hence the fact that they’ve been tested multiple times routinely.

She said the man had been tested four times as part of routine testing and was between testing cycles at the time the positive result emerged.

Hipkins said the man was probably infected at a ship in Auckland given the time of infection. 

The man returned a negative test on October 2 but felt unwell on Friday and after contacting Healthline, took a Covid-19 test which returned a positive result yesterday.

He was regularly tested as part of testing for workers in the shipping industry. 

Dr Bloomfield said in a press briefing today that the man was potentially infectious on Wednesday and Thursday, two days prior to being tested.

The infected man and his four household contacts are in isolation, two in managed isolation and quarantine and two at home.

The total number of active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand now sits at 42.