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Air Commodore Webb confirms just 40% of Covid-19 facility staff were tested prior to new outbreak

The head of managed isolation and quarantine facilities has this morning confirmed only 40 per cent of his staff had been tested for Covid-19 prior to last week’s fresh community outbreak.

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The head of managed isolation and quarantine facilities says before August 12, testing was voluntary. Source: Breakfast

Air Commodore Darryn Webb says that up until August 12 testing of around 3000 employees had been voluntary. Officials have since made it compulsory for all border and facility staff to be tested.

It was revealed yesterday that a quarantine facility employee had tested positive for the virus, bringing into question New Zealand’s border security.

The maintenance worker was employed at Rydges Hotel in Auckland but did not have any routine contact with guests.

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Mr Webb said some 3000 staff in Auckland and other parts of the country were given the opportunity to be tested prior to August 12, but around 60 per cent “didn’t see the need” to be tested.

“It was a voluntary arrangement,” he told TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

Breakfast host John Campbell pointed out that the latest revelation is contrary to what had been said by a Government official in late June - that regular health checks and asymptomatic testing of all border-facing staff were being conducted.

Since the latest outbreak occurred last week, Mr Webb said “almost 100 per cent” of isolation and quarantine staff had now been tested, even those without symptoms.

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“The view has been evolving over time about exactly what the best approach to defence is here."

Mr Webb said there is a “multiple-layered approach to protect” against Covid-19 in the facilities, and the test is “arguably the last line of that defence”.

“What we’re learning now is asymptomatic testing is perhaps an increasingly important part of those layers.”

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said on Saturday he was preparing to order a mandate for all border and quarantine staff to be tested in light of the most recent outbreak.