Winston Peters accuses Cabinet of cherry picking Covid-19 data to bolster Alert Level 2 decision

NZ First leader and Deputy PM Winston Peters says Cabinet’s decision for the rest of New Zealand to remain at Alert Level 2 wasn’t based on science or medicine but was instead “cherry picked” from a number of options.

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The NZ First Leader says the decision for NZ to stay at Level 2 wasn't a medical or scientific one. Source: Breakfast

It was announced yesterday the rest of the country outside of Auckland would remain at Alert Level 2 for one more week - a move Peters, as a coalition partner, did not agree with. He issued a press release shortly after the decision was announced invoking his party's "agree to disagree" provision of the coalition agreement. 

Peters this morning defended his decision to invoke the provision, and told TVNZ1’s Breakfast the rest of the country shouldn’t have been at Level 2 in the first place.

“The reality is there’s not been a case in the South Island since April... so why is our economy being damaged in this way when we can’t put the evidence up to justify what we’re doing?”

This morning, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said virus modeling was showing there's still a 30-40 per cent chance of a case outside of Auckland being seeded from someone travelling out of Auckland, and around a 10-20 per cent likelihood in the South Island.

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Cabinet has agreed - in principle - to lower alert levels outside Auckland next Monday. Source: 1 NEWS

But yesterday PM Jacinda Ardern said the alert level decision was based on modelling that suggested around a 25 per cent chance of cases moving outside the Auckland region. 

Breakfast host John Campbell put the 25 per cent figure to Peters this morning.

“Isn’t that justification for a preparedness, a Level 2 alert level system operating in the rest of the country? Given that there is one chance in four that an Aucklander will take the virus with them over the totality of this period, this cluster?"

But Peters shot the numbers down, and said there were different figures put to Cabinet by different experts. 

“You just said one in four, [but] we’ve heard one in 10 from the very same sources. What you’ve got to say to yourself is, 'How granular and how sound is this sort of modelling, or is it just dragging figures from mid air?'"

Peters said the 25 per cent figure was "someone grabbing the middle ground and saying it's about there". 

"In terms of a scientific analysis, this is not good - 25 is the compromised figure."

Level 2 extension should give South Islanders confidence, Ashley Bloomfield says

Campbell then pressed Peters for clarification, asking who had put the one in 10 figure to Cabinet and if Cabinet had cherry picked the 25 per cent figure. 

Peters said it was a "deadly serious matter". 

“You’re right it was cherry picked. This is not a analytical, granular, medical, scientific decision based on that sort of evidence," the politician said. 

"It was cherry picked and it seems to me, and it seems to my colleagues, to be a compromise and now it’s put out there as something on which you can rely."