First we had two women who left quarantine early on compassionate grounds kissing and cuddling their way from Auckland to Wellington when they had not been tested for COVID-19 but, as it turned out, they did have the disease.
Then it turned out that those in quarantine were not actually being tested at all, but merely completing 14 days in supposed isolation, while intermingling with other ‘guests’ at different stages of their isolation who may, or may not, have had the disease.
Then the army was brought in and the testing regime that was supposed to have been happening all along started actually happening and we discovered — surprise, surprise — that some of those returning Kiwis tested positive for coronavirus at the border, and we now have 22 cases. Well… who would have thought it?
Okay, so, as far as we know, we still do not seem to have any cases of community spread of the disease, and we seem to have contained the infection at the border.
Well, that’s a relief… not to mention a near miss.
But unfortunately, that is by no means the end of it. The cock-ups made at the border in the first few weeks of testing might yet come back to bite us because it appears that over 300 people left quarantine without testing… and are nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Health is still trying to get in touch with more than 300 people who left managed isolation without being tested.
They had completed their 14 days and let out before June 16, when rules around testing changed.
Because of that, Dr Bloomfield says they’re “less of an issue” than those who were granted compassionate leave and left isolation early before their 14 days were up.
I am sorry, Doctor Bloomfield, but I disagree. The fact is that we do not know if they are a risk to the community or not. We know that quarantined individuals were intermingling at the isolation hotels, even attending birthday parties with children blowing out candles on a birthday cake. How many people did Thelma and Louise kiss and cuddle as they left their isolation hotel?
It speaks volumes that, while Bloomfield is playing down the risk these people pose, the government is desperately trying to track them down; which suggests that the risk is not as low as Doctor Bloomfield is trying to imply.
It gets worse. It seems that some of these people cannot be traced, as the phone numbers they gave appear to be ‘disconnected’. In other words, some of these people, who were in quarantine between June 9 and June 16, gave false contact information when they came into the country.
You couldn’t make this stuff up.
As they all came in on New Zealand passports, presumably they can all be traced eventually, but firstly, it says very little about the integrity of those who gave false information, and secondly, it lands our quarantine efforts squarely back into the territory of the Keystone Cops.
How can over 300 people, all returning residents, all quarantined because of the risk of a deadly virus, simply vanish into thin air? Did no one think to check their details before they left quarantine? Was there no robust procedure to ensure that all returning residents could be traced, in the event of a later outbreak in the hotel where they stayed?
I put it to you that we have got as far as we have with COVID-19 through sheer dumb luck. The errors, inconsistencies and falsehoods that have been uncovered during this shambolic process would suggest that our luck is going to run out sooner or later. Any one of the 300 may be spreading the virus into the community right now, and no one will be any the wiser… until someone eventually gets tested.
The prime minister is appealing to the 300 to contact the authorities and ‘to do their bit’, presumably as their part of the ‘team of 5 million’. These people are not, and never were, part of that team, Jacinda. If they give false information on an official declaration, which results in the risk of a new wave of the pandemic, you are being naive and stupid to think that they care about the risks to the community. These people are only thinking about themselves, and once again, you, dear leader, have let us all down.
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