Judith Collins says Covid-19 messaging needs to be 'spot on every time' after confusion sees contacts skip isolation

Source: 1News

National Party leader Judith Collins says Covid-19 messaging needs to be "spot on", after confusion among those meant to be self-isolating led to further community exposure in Auckland.

On Monday, the Botany Downs KFC worker, known as Case L in the Auckland February cluster, who went to work shortly before testing positive for Covid-19 told media she was never told to isolate at home despite health officials and the Prime Minister stating otherwise.

But the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield insisted multiple attempts had been made to try and contact the family.

"There had been multiple attempts to communicate with both that family and others including phone calls, texts and efforts to get alternative phone numbers to contact them," he said.

"It was very clear about what the expectations were on families."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also said yesterday she had looked back at the communication with case L.

“There were emails sent from the school, in the order of 15 text messages and phone calls, I cannot answer whether those were received, certainly you can see attempts were made.”

However a Facebook comment reply on Saturday from the Unite Against Covid-19 official page says Case J, who was the Kmart worker, and Case L, who worked at KFC, "were not required to isolate at the time" and that family members complied with the advice given.

"The advice for all staff and students of Papatoetoe High School to isolate was updated on 23 February, after the two had attended their shifts at their workplaces. Close contacts and their families were advised to isolate and get tested," the comment read.

"Initially, casual plus contacts such as Case I, (Case L's sibling) were advised to get a test and self isolate but their household members were not required to do so. The family complied with the advice they were given at the time."

The comment said that the Ministry of Health updated advice on February 23 following the "high risk situation". The updated advice was for everyone in a Papatoetoe High School household to stay away from work or any other school, educational facility or community setting.

Collins this morning told Breakfast the messaging needed to be better.

"These sorts of communications need to be very clear and they need to be in languages of the people who are receiving them, not just of the people who translate them and say 'oh, well I think I've got that right'.

"It's got to be spot on every time."

When asked how to get it right, Collins said New Zealand's diversity needed to be recognised.

"I think we take account of the fact we are a very multi-ethnic community, that we have 220 different ethnicities - when I was certainly Minister of Ethnic Communities, that's what I was told," she said.

"There are 120 different languages being spoken in Auckland alone, so we just need to have people who can get these messages through, and we already have them - they're called translators and the Ministry of Health has to make better use of them."

In a statement to 1 NEWS yesterday, a Ministry of Health spokesperson said people could access specific information in their language by phoning their call centre. There, they can be connected with interpreter services, and some callers can speak multiple languages. 

"Information on locations of interest for people who may be contacts of Covid-19 cases in the community is available on the Ministry of Health website. However, at this stage, it is not being translated into other languages," the spokesperson said.

Watch Judith Collins' full Breakfast interview below: