‘Provisions exist’ to prosecute Covid-19 rule-breakers, but it's not up to politicians — Ardern

Source: 1News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there are ways to prosecute those who break Covid-19 rules, but that decision should be left to police and not politicians. 

It comes as National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop said yesterday rule-breakers should be punished “so others don't do it as well”. 

Bishop said people weren’t following the rules because there were no sanctions. Recent incidents included people going to work or the gym when they were meant to be isolating. 

But Ardern today said “the provisions exist” in the law to punish people who don’t follow Covid-19 guidelines. 

“No minister, no politician, none of us that I have spoken to think that this is tolerable. What has happened here has been a clear breach and everyone is frustrated by it. 

“The distinction we’ve simply made is that politicians aren’t the ones that determine enforcement and that’s rightly so.”

Police told 1 NEWS in cases where people have failed to comply with health officials' orders to self-isolate, police "may investigate when referred relevant information by the Ministry of Health".

"At this stage, we have not received referrals and we continue to focus on working with individuals, whānau and communities to support them to isolate and be tested.

"Police will continue to work with Public Health as we have to date, including to assist finding people who should be isolating and who prove difficult to find."

In the past year, there have been 834 prosecutions for people not following the rules set down by lockdown. Police issued about 5500 warnings without prosecuting.

Labour-aligned South Auckland councillor Fa’anana Efeso Collins told Local Democracy Reporting talk of a tough crackdown won’t help his community. 

“I can see we’re slowly moving into the post-kindness phase, where instead of being a team of five million, we are hearing that people just need to be compliant,” he said.

“But the danger I see is that if we are forcing people to be compliant, then what does that look like when the vaccine rollout happens and half the community refuse, because it’s being forced on them. 

“So we’ve got to be careful how we communicate things."

Collins said authorities also need to assess whether they are doing enough to communicate to people about the need to self-isolate.

Ardern today emphasised that support is offered to those who need it while they self-isolate.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said community-based services also support the Ministry of Health's efforts to reach the community.