Government cracks down on COVID-19 quarantine measures after series of blunders

The Government has announced a crackdown on quarantine measures after a series of "blunders" over the last week.

Over the weekend two women were allowed to leave isolation on compassionate grounds before testing positive for COVID-19. They travelled to Wellington for a funeral and en route came into close contact with two other people. 

A group of 10 people were allowed out early to attend a burial with more than 150 people on Tuesday despite exemptions no longer being granted, and a large party occurred in a quarantine hotel.

Since April 9, more than 19,000 people have stayed in a managed isolation or quarantine facility and from now onwards additional measures will be implemented to further "strengthen the border".

"We have added to our existing strong arrangements the requirement for routine testing on day three and 12 for every person, whether they are symptomatic or not," director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

"These changes meant that everyone in managed isolation will be tested twice for COVID-19 and will need to have returned a negative test result before leaving a facility.

"No one is now allowed to leave managed isolation, for any reason, without returning a negative test for COVID-19."

During a press conference on Friday, senior responsible officer for isolation, quarantine and repatriation Darryn 'Digby' Webb announced further changes.

"The matter of staff and resources is a matter I have taken urgent action on," he says.

"Yesterday I received approval from the chief of the defence force for the deployment of additional personnel from the NZ Defence Force to double their onsite presence...

"Police presence will also be increasing with additional staff in each facility and specifically identified after-hours support should it be required."

He says they will work in many roles, including security.

Webb also launched a review of quarantine procedures.

"In my new role I have commissioned an end to end review of the managed quarantine and isolation process," he announced.

"[This will occur] from when they have been granted entry into New Zealand to their departure after 14 days following the necessary exit protocols and they have been assessed as low risk."

The review will be led by the Royal' New Zealand Navy's Commodore Tony Miller and Webb says it should be completed in the coming days, with a report due next week.

"There is no doubt this is a complex matter, but it is also the most important part of our collective defence against COVID-19 while we remain in a global pandemic."

Housing Minister Megan Woods will be taking on the ministerial oversight of border isolation and quarantine operations.

She says the Government is aiming to transition to a long-term goal for isolation and from October 1, the Ministry of Business, Innovation Employment will take over responsibility for managed isolation.