Coronavirus: Ministry of Health confirms 51 of 55 people who left quarantine early were not tested for COVID-19

Fifty-one of the 55 new arrivals who left quarantine early were not tested for COVID-19 before their release, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

Of the 55 people released from mandatory isolation on compassionate grounds between June 9 and June 16, 39 have since tested negative for the virus. Seven have refused testing due to medical reasons or age, and one was wrongly counted as their exemption application was withdrawn. Of the remaining eight, four are awaiting test results and four have yet to be tested, the ministry revealed in a statement on Tuesday night.

The ministry also confirmed that of the four who were tested before leaving managed isolation, two were tested on their days of departure - suggesting they were released without confirmation of a negative result.

The data was finally released following days of uncertainty. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield had been unable to provide the specific figures during his media briefings, despite repeated requests for the information. 

The ministry's testing inconsistencies have come under scrutiny following the confirmation of two new infections last Tuesday - sisters who had returned from the UK - marking New Zealand's first new cases in roughly three weeks. It was later revealed the women had been granted an exemption from managed isolation on compassionate grounds to attend a funeral in Wellington - however, neither were tested for the virus before leaving the facility. They later returned positive results after getting tested in the capital.

Routine testing at day three and day 12 of the 14-day quarantine or managed isolation period is also meant to be mandatory, despite claims of negligence by untested new arrivals.

The Government has also ordered consistent, mandatory testing of staff working at the border, including air crew, employees at quarantine and isolation facilities, shuttle drivers, cleaners and immigration, customs, biosecurity and security staff. 

Two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Tuesday, as well as the recovery of one of the sisters from Britain, bringing New Zealand's active case total to 10. Six of the 10 cases are from India, one is from Britain, two are from Pakistan and one is from the US. The two latest confirmed cases are men in their 20s.