COVID-19: Judith Collins calls for deportation of Australian woman refusing COVID-19 test in MIQ

Opposition leader Judith Collins is calling for the deportation of an Australian woman who has spent 28 days in a managed isolation facility after refusing to be tested for COVID-19

Lucinda Baulch travelled from Victoria to New Zealand last month to accompany three foster children who were moving into the care of local families. 

All new arrivals are legally required to complete 14 days in a managed isolation or quarantine facility (MIQ) before they are able to enter the community. The system also requires all new arrivals, other than infants, to undergo routine testing on day three and day 12 of their stay to ensure they are not infected with the virus. A test may also be performed on arrival or on day one. 

However, the 14-day period will be extended if a new arrival refuses to undergo routine testing - which they are entitled to do. 

Baulch, who has repeatedly refused to be swabbed for COVID-19, is due to leave Wellington's Grand Mercure Hotel on Tuesday after spending four weeks at the facility.

"My intention was [to] come here, transition the children, [and] go home," she told Newshub on Monday.

On the day of her reported release, Baulch told Stuff she would have taken a test if staff had provided sufficient evidence to prove its safety. 

To perform a PCR test, a healthcare worker will insert a swab into the nostril to collect a sample from the nasal cavity, which is tested for the genetic material of the virus. A swab can also be taken from the throat.

The Ministry of Health has repeatedly referred to the nasal swab as the "gold standard" for the detection of COVID-19. Officials have also reiterated that the test is not harmful to the health of the recipient.

However, Baulch argued she could not give her informed consent without satisfactory evidence to prove the swab was safe. 

"Governments are really confident in the testing and the consent form says it's not known to be harmful to health - and then you get the other side, where lots of people talk about concerns with testing. There's such a mish-mash of information," she told Newshub. 

"Show me the facts, show me the evidence."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, National Party leader Judith Collins called for the woman's deportation.

"How is it that we have an Australian woman in MIQ who refused to be tested - what is going on here? What is this soft approach doing?" she said.

When a reporter asked if Collins thought the woman should be forcibly tested, she said the woman should be sent back to Australia instead. 

"No, I recommend this - if a New Zealander went to Australia and refused to get tested in a MIQ facility, what do you think would happen to them? They'd be back on a plane to New Zealand," Collins said.

"So unless this woman is a New Zealand citizen - actually, we shouldn't put up with this behaviour from anybody. And frankly, the Australian government needs to take back their own person if she's one of theirs."

When another reporter asked Collins to clarify if she meant deportation, the MP said: "Yep, pretty much." 

"Unless she's a New Zealand citizen," she added.

Judith Collins says the woman should be deported - unless, of course, she is a New Zealand citizen.
Judith Collins says the woman should be deported - unless, of course, she is a New Zealand citizen. Photo credit: Getty

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon regarding Auckland's latest community case of the virus, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed people have a right to refuse the test.

"Ultimately when someone refuses to be tested - which people are entitled to do - they'll find that they'll be having a much longer stay in managed isolation than they necessarily needed to," he said when questioned about Baulch.

He confirmed that Baulch will be permitted to leave after 28 days if clinicians consider her to be COVID-free.

"In this particular case, if the woman concerned gets a clean bill of health and is deemed by health clinicians to be COVID-free, then she will be able to leave after 28 days - which I understand is today. It's probably twice as long as it needed to be," he said.

When a reporter asked why the Government had not considered deporting the woman, Hipkins reiterated that "people have a right to refuse testing" and to his understanding, she was always intending to return to Australia upon her release.

Hipkins could not confirm if Baulch's extended stay was taxpayer-funded - however, the New Zealand Herald has reported that Child Protection paid for Baulch and the three children.

Baulch told Newshub she was under the impression that she was exempt from routine testing, as she had always intended to return to Australia immediately after being released from quarantine. However, she told Stuff on Tuesday that she had initiated legal proceedings to protest her detention at the facility - and may not be able to leave the country straight away.

Details regarding the Australian's background have also started to emerge, with Baulch telling the New Zealand Herald she had participated in a "freedom event" - or an anti-lockdown protest - in Australia last year. She also revealed to the outlet that she had researched ways to get an exemption from wearing a mask.

Baulch similarly confirmed to Stuff that she had attended an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on November 3.

The three children Baulch accompanied tested negative for the virus and were released from managed isolation after 14 days.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) deputy secretary and joint head of MIQ, Megan Main, confirmed to Newshub that a person cannot legally be held in managed isolation for longer than 28 days.

"We have legislation which requires us to have people take a day 12 test and we are required to hold people who refused that test for at least an extra 10 days."

MBIE also confirmed that Baulch is not the first to refuse testing, and other new arrivals have stayed for an additional 14 days in the past.