Jacinda Ardern is furious at an "unacceptable failure of the system" that somehow allowed coronavirus back into New Zealand.
The country’s prime minister expressed her disappointment on Wednesday (local time) after two Kiwis returning from the UK tested positive to COVID-19, ending a 24-day run without any new cases.
The two citizens were granted a compassionate exemption to their quarantine after returning from the UK in the hope of visiting an ill relative, who unfortunately died before they were able to be reunited.
They were allowed to leave their mandatory isolation in Auckland to travel in a borrowed car to Wellington, where they tested positive to the disease on Monday.
The women were believed to have only stopped for a roadside bathroom break during their journey, but on Wednesday National MP Michael Woodhouse told parliament he had caught wind of a different story.
Mr Woodhouse claimed a reliable source shared with him that the women had stopped to ask for directions, then thanked their helper with a “kiss and a cuddle”, according to the New Zealand Herald.
“It should not have happened and it cannot be repeated,” Ms Ardern said on Wednesday.
The Kiwis are now in self-isolation along with a third family member in Wellington.
The breach has forced the health department to contact trace 320 people who may have been exposed to the virus, including passengers on a flight from Brisbane to Auckland on June 6.
“We are getting them all tested and isolated until a negative result is received,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.
New Zealand to change quarantine rules after new cases
The two positive tests cost New Zealand its COVID-free status, sparking a blame game between the government, opposition and health department.
Ms Ardern responded by getting assistant chief of defence Air Commodore Darryn Webb to oversee the country's quarantine system.
“It is totally unacceptable that procedures we were advised were in place were not. Our job is now to fix that and that is exactly what I intend to do,” she said.
Ms Ardern has also paused compassionate quarantine exemptions “until such time as we can guarantee a disciplined and rigorous system at the border that ministers have confidence in”.
Citizens are allowed to return to New Zealand during the pandemic but are required to quarantine for a fortnight.
Protocols require testing for COVID-19 on day three and 12 of their isolation, however it is now unclear whether this is taking place.
Dr Bloomfield has taken responsibility for the blunder but has not offered an apology.
The opposition has renewed calls for Health Minister David Clark to resign but he has refused.
New Zealand recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
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