The Director-General of Health says the public can continue to trust him despite how the cases of two women from the UK with Covid-19 were handled.
During tough questioning today from the media, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said people should continue to believe what he says as he has always shared all the information he had on hand.
“I provided all the information I had on Tuesday when I made the announcement [of the two cases],” he said.
“As soon as it became clear what the other information was, and I was privy to that, I released that in a further statement.”
It follows a statement released by the Ministry of Health last night which confirmed the two Covid-19 cases announced on Tuesday had been in contact with two friends. This occurred after they were allowed to leave quarantine in Auckland on compassionate grounds to visit a dying relative in Wellington.
Last night's statement was in contrast to Dr Bloomfield’s statements on Tuesday, when he said the women didn’t have contact with anyone else during their drive from Auckland to Wellington.
However, this was questioned by National MP Michael Woodhouse yesterday. He said he received information from a confidential source “that the story of an uninterrupted trip from Auckland to Wellington was not accurate".
Dr Bloomfield said today that he hoped people trusted what he said because he’d always been open and communicated information to the public throughout the pandemic.
“Everyday, everyone got the same information at the same time about the cases,” he said.
“In this situation, yes, the information has evolved.
“I haven’t kept that to myself. I have shared it.”
He said as soon as further information was provided by the women in further interviews conducted by health officials, he asked officials to act on it.
Dr Bloomfield said the situation showed the importance of follow-up interviews, and that the information he had shared on Tuesday was what the ministry based its initial decisions on.
In response to questioning regarding why he believed the initial information the women provided in their first interview, he said he was only sharing the information he had on hand.
“It’s very common, in these interviews, particularly where people are under stress or there’s grief involved, that ... they think of other things that may have not been top of mind or they may have just not considered material or important.”
He said it was important people felt confident in sharing information with authorities without worrying they would be criticised.
The Heath Ministry confirmed last night the women who tested positive for Covid-19 got lost on the motorway after leaving their hotel.
The Health Ministry said the women then phoned the friends who provided the vehicle. Two friends then “met and guided them to the correct motorway so they could go in the right direction”.
“As part of this, the pair were in limited physical contact with the two friends for approximately five minutes.”
Dr Bloomfield today reiterated any contact between the two cases and their friends was “brief”.
“An arm around one, possibly both of the women, from the side.”
He said this information was verified “with all those involved”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was now the Government's and Dr Bloomfield's job to restore the public's confidence in the system.
Ms Ardern said the events over the past two days "absolutely has upset the public and rightly so."
"We have had a setback in people's confidence. Our job is to restore it."
She said the first version of events the women had provided health officials was repeated to the public because "at that time, that was the information we had".
"We're always advising based on what we have received from the cases at the time."