The Government’s initial response hints that it did immediately realise the trouble it had on its hands. First, came the appeal directly to the public, bypassing media scrutiny. The evening the news broke, the Prime Minister used a Facebook live event from her office to assure New Zealand her “expectations have not been met”. It took less than 60 seconds for the strength of feeling to become obvious to anyone reading the messages ticking up from the bottom of the screen. “They should never have been allowed in”, “there is no room for trial and error here Jacinda”, “we stayed home for 6 weeks and you let these people in without testing them. Why!!!”, “your team dropped the ball”.
Next, the Prime Minister tried to blame external forces with a they-made-us-do-it finger-pointing exercise, suggesting this would never have happened had commentators and the opposition not kept banging on until she was forced to give compassionate exemptions so new arrivals could say goodbye to their dying loved ones. Shills for the Labour Party took the same line on social media.
Sprinkled throughout were attempts to show Things Were Being Done. The Health Minister banned all further compassionate exemptions. The Prime Minister called in Air Commodore Digby Webb to oversee all border operations but failed to mention he was already involved and she was only giving him an extra job. Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield banned all transtasman flying without a face mask, as if that might’ve made any difference in this debacle.
This is a simple matter of competence.
The Minister of Health should have been asking probing questions about the quarantine systems in place. You don’t just assume everything is okay.
I would expect there to be a database of incoming arrivals with each person marked where they flew from, their entry day into isolation, the dates of their Covid tests etc. And if you had that, and protocols that no one gets released unless they have had two negative tests, then what happened couldn’t occur.
The Government then failed to foresee the torrent of revelations from within isolation facilities that flowed after that first story of the two long-distance-driving women: multiple accounts of people released without testing, multiple accounts of mixing in isolation facilities, multiple accounts of exemptions granted after exemptions were banned, revelations of travellers absconding from a gang funeral and not being rounded up.
There has been a torrent. I note the PM is not calling some of the claims false, so I guess that is the new tactic.