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In fiery exchange, Simon Bridges accuses Dr Bloomfield of holding back info

A fiery select committee meeting today saw National leader Simon Bridges accuse Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield of attempting to control information flow. 

It was an assertion Dr Bloomfield rejected, saying communications with the public around Covid-19 had been "absolutely fundamental".

During the meeting, Dr Bloomfield was questioned by Mr Bridges over communications from the Ministry of Health.

"Here’s the point, the Government suspended the OIA (Official Information Act) and we’ve been waiting over two weeks for your department to answer written questions," Mr Bridges said.

"Why don’t you answer simple health questions to the one parliamentary committee on this remarkably significant issue?

"I’ll be quite frank with you: I don’t think it’s a resourcing issue.

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Today the select committee heard cancer diagnoses had dropped by 30 per cent over the Alert Level 4 lockdown period. Source: 1 NEWS

"I think it comes down to one simple thing. You don’t want to answer because you want to control the information flow and do this in a time and a way convenient to you and the Government," Mr Bridges said. 

Dr Bloomfield said he rejected that assertion.

"Part of my role as a public servant, and I’ve been one for many years, is to ensure there is good information and right from the start of this response we’ve been very open and communicating very regularly with the public.

"However, if there is an issue I will personally take that up with the clerk of the committee, with what is the questions still outstanding and I will work with my team to get those responses as soon as possible.

"Communications with the public have been absolutely fundamental and I made myself available on almost a daily basis to media because I felt that was an incredibly important part of ensuring all New Zealanders knew what was going on."

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President Mike Egan says the downturn in sales in lockdown has left many struggling to stay afloat. Source: 1 NEWS

Lockdown 'gone too long' - National

After the select committee, Mr Bridges told media the lockdown had gone on too long due to the "social harms, health issues and the need to get New Zealand working again".

"These are very real health harms come from the lockdown and restrictions.

"They shouldn't be underplayed. Whether it’s cancer treatment, in terms of births and psychological effects of the restrictions, through to the economic effects."

This morning, the Epidemic Response Committee agreed to issue summonses to Dr Bloomfield, the solicitor-general and police commissioner over the legality of the lockdown.

"Not to challenge the lockdown but it is critical these things are down according to the law," Mr Bridges said.

He said if there were doubts around the legality of the lockdown, the answer was to bring the issues to Parliament.

"That would be something we would cooperate on - we would have during the lockdown and something we still would."

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Today's death brings New Zealand's toll to 21. Source: 1 NEWS

Two new cases of Covid-19 were announced today, as well as one death, after the two prior days saw no new cases.

It brings New Zealand's Covid-19 cases to 1488.