'Running through the alphabet' — ACT leader David Seymour scathing as Covid-19 'Case L' announced

ACT leader David Seymour is launching an attack of New Zealand's contact tracing after four community cases were revealed this week.

David Seymour. Source: 1 NEWS

All have been linked back to the Papatoetoe High School student and her family, who were announced as positive Covid-19 cases on February 14.

Two of the cases announced this week had continued to work when they were meant to be isolating, something Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said made her "frustrated".

While she says they're confident they still have the cluster contained, Seymour is questioning whether that's true.

For clarity, the Ministry of Health has labelled the cases in this outbreak alphabetically. Today, Case L was announced.

"We are seeing a rolling maul of cases and will soon be at risk of running right through the alphabet," Seymour says.

"It's hard to have any confidence things won't get worse from here. There are too many obvious failures and breaches of public health advice occurring, and contact tracing is proving ineffective."

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The Prime Minister says they do have the option for legal repercussions for the breaches, but they “aren’t what we want”. Source: 1 NEWS

Previously close contacts were identified through contact tracing and contacted directly by health officials.

Now, all people who were in the stores at the relevant times are considered close contacts and are asked to contact Healthline themselves.

People in those situations used to be called casual contacts and continued to be low risk, while close contacts are considered high risk.

The cases' coworkers are now called close-plus contacts and face even stricter isolation requirements than the close contacts.

"What's becoming apparent is a whole lot of testing has been done but our so-called 'gold standard' of contact tracing may not have been good enough to target the right people for testing at the right time," Seymour says.

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"In reality contact tracing is no better than it was last August."

Seymour also criticised the information about today's case being released in a written press statement, rather than health officials holding a press conference.

"This isn't good enough. Officials and the Government need to front to answer questions on the state of the South Auckland cluster today," Seymour says.

In response, a Ministry of Health spokesperson told 1 NEWS the country maintains the "gold standard".

"While there will always be room for improvement, the ministry is pleased with what has already been achieved to ensure that New Zealand maintains a gold-standard in contact tracing," the spokesperson says.

"Our experience around the current Auckland outbreak demonstrates the progress our contact tracing service, and the people working in it, have made."

The Ministry of Health says it met all recommendations in the Verrall report.

Last year Dr Ayesha Verrall, an infectious disease specialist, audited the country's contract tracing system in regards to Covid-19 cases.

Among the recommendations included the development of the Covid Tracer app, and suggesting the National Close Contact Service (NCCS) keep in daily contact with close contacts required to quarantine at home.

Verrall is now a Labour MP and New Zealand's Associate Minister of Health, alongside other portfolios.