The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) says posts on a Government website saying a KFC worker did nothing wrong were made in "on the understanding it was accurate" as the information came from the Health Ministry.
Multiple posts were made on the Unite Against COVID-19 website, which is run by the DPMC, on February 26. The posts were responding to questions from the public and stated that the KFC worker, known as Case L, didn't need to isolate and her and her family "complied with advice they were given at the time".
The Prime Minister said on the same day she was "frustrated" with Case L for not isolating and being at work.
Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said today he "had not established" who provided DPMC staff with the information they posted.
"My understanding is they were responding to a Facebook post, but I don't know the detail of where they got that information from," Dr Bloomfield said.
However, a spokesperson for the DPMC COVID-19 Response Group told Newshub the information came from the Ministry of Health.
"It was based on information from the Ministry of Health website regarding the general advice at the time for all the (Papatoetoe High School) families concerned."
COVID-response Minister Chris Hipkins said today the information was "out of context."
But National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop said the situation showed even Government departments are confused.
"This is just baffling and bewildering. The Unite Against COVID-19 Facebook page is posting the Ministry's own advice while Ministers dissemble and play the blame game. It is deeply unedifying."
- Do you know more? Send an email in confidence to email@example.com
A spokesperson for the DPMC said the posts were "made in good faith" on the understanding that the information was correct, but "recognises the use of the word complied in the reply made it more definitive than it should have been."
Hipkins has said the advice to Papatoetoe families was "very clear", as letters were emailed to parents and students on February 17 and 19.
Both letters advised students they would need a negative test result before returning to school on Monday the 22nd.
The letter on the 17th says everyone in the school community "is asked" to have a test. It contained no information about household members needing to isolate. The follow-up letter on the 19th "encourages whanau" to have a test but did not require household members to isolate beyond Monday the 22nd when Case L, who is not a student, went to work.
Otago University Epidemiologist, Professor Michael Baker, says communication needs to be absolutely clear if action is required and conflicting messages are "undesirable".
"I think that will be one of the lessons from this current outbreak is to review the messaging so it's done better in the future."
The Prime Minister was unavailable for an interview.