Applications to be exempt from quarantine on compassionate grounds are considered on their merits and no blanket approach is applied, the Director-General of Health says after the High Court overruled a Ministry of Health decision.
Except they’re not, as the High Court found. The court found the Ministry three times did not look at the case on its merits and failed to use any discretion (a blanket approach).
On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters 18 such people had been granted permission, but it later emerged she had been given the incorrect number and no one – until the High Court ruling – had been granted an exemption on compassionate grounds.
The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told The AM Show on Wednesday that exemptions have been granted on other grounds, however.
“We have had several hundred requests for exemptions for people who have flown into the country and are in either quarantine or in managed isolation at the airports and hotels around the place. Of those, there have been 18 exemptions granted, mostly on medical grounds. For example, people who have medical conditions so they can’t really be looked after in that hotel setting,” he said.
This misses the point. The problem is that the DG’s health order allows exemptions on compassionate grounds but the MOH process didn’t allow for such exemptions to be considered. They were only set up for considering requests where the person applying is sick etc.
“We have had a total of 24 inquiries or applications for exemption on compassionate grounds such as the one the judge has made a ruling on and none of those have been granted or hadn’t been until last Friday when the family took it for a judicial review.”
Dr Bloomfield said his team works to apply specific criteria to each case “objectively” and “fairly”, which he said they do with “empathy”.
Has Dr Bloomfield not read the court ruling? His staff did not apply any relevant criteria let alone objectively or fairly.
“This was not a blanket, one-size-fits-all process. Each application was looked at on its merits and all the information. The person who went for the judicial review provided further information and I very quickly asked the team, I said ‘please go back and review. Make sure you are carefully and objectively considering the additional information in putting forward that decision.'”
And they still said no, because in fact they didn’t consider any of the additional information on compassionate grounds. They were only reviewing it on medical grounds.