Coronavirus: Concerns remain at New Zealand's border despite Government's sweeping new changes

Sweeping changes to our border systems are being put in place. 

Hundreds of extra New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) staff will be stationed at managed isolation hotels, reducing the reliance on private security guards. 

And a new team is being put in place to improve accountability over the Government's testing regime. Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche, who's been working on contact tracing, will chair the new team and others will be announced soon.

It follows Newshub's revelations last week which revealed woeful testing rates.

It was a strategy announced in June: testing all high-risk border and hotel staff. But it didn't deliver. 

On Wednesday, the Government gave its clearest acknowledgement of that yet. 

"As has been discussed, it has not been executed at the scale and speed necessary," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at the 1pm press conference.

Newshub revealed Thursday last week that 63.5 percent of border and hotel isolation staff had not been tested for COVID-19. Since then, testing has ramped up - and Wednesday brought more changes. 

This includes the establishment of a new health team to oversee testing of high-risk staff, and guarantee it's happening. 

"What we need to do is assure ourselves that it's being implemented across a range of sites in a really comprehensive way," Ardern said.

The military will also have a bigger role. Issues with security guards in Victoria contributed to a major outbreak there and last month, Newshub revealed claims at least seven guards fell asleep on the job at hotels in Auckland, with some working extra shifts as taxi drivers. 

"We were having some questions raised around the use of private security contractors," Ardern said.

As a result, there will now be 500 extra NZDF staff stationed at isolation hotels, which means each facility will have 19 NZDF personnel, with a total contribution of around 1200.

Guards will still be used, but they'll be employed by the Government and paid the living wage - $22.10 - from next month.

Ardern says this will raise accountability and give more central control over procedures.

National says the reason for the sudden change is obvious. 

"Well, I think it's an admission of failure," leader Judith Collins said. "Clearly there's no confidence in the system as it's been working."

And there remain concerns about that system.

Hunia Rangi was enjoying a weekend stay at the Cordis Hotel late last month, but also checking in was a group of around 20 foreign aircrew.

"It is a gap in the system. I'm not an expert in policy like that, but if I was trying to manage the risk I would keep them in a separate hotel," Rangi told Newshub.

The aircrew used the same elevators as other guests. 

"They were using the same lifts that everybody else were using and there was a large congregation down in the bottom lobby," he added.

"You know, it could have been a disaster."

Health Minister Chris Hipkins isn't ruling out further changes for aircrews. 

"Every time we look, we're looking at how we can tighten things up more," he said.

Tightening things up - an understatement of what's required to ensure that the system designed to protect at-risk workers, and all New Zealanders, is robust.