COVID-19: Jacinda Ardern, Papatoetoe High School principal 'want to improve' and review communications after KFC worker says she was never told to isolate

The Prime Minister, Director-General of Health and principal of Papatoetoe High say they'll look at how communication can be improved, after a COVID-19 case says she did not receive clear instructions to self-isolate. 

It comes as new information on contact tracing from this current outbreak shows we're still underperforming.

Papatoetoe High's principal Vaughan Couillault says he's known Case L and her family since 2018. 

He says the students have won awards and they're a "good family".  

Case L, the KFC employee is not a current student at Papatoetoe High School.

Her sister, Case I was the only one enrolled.

But Case L has told Newshub she and her family never got advice to isolate. 

"It's not fair on our end that we're getting all this backlash for something that we haven't actually done," she told Newshub.

"It would be nice for the truth to get out there and for her to apologise."

The Prime Minister wouldn't apologise and said the information was conveyed clearly but she will review what happened. 

"I've made a commitment that we will go back and look at everything in this particular case because we always want to improve," Ardern said on Tuesday.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault says there's absolutely no reason the family would ignore the advice.

So what information was conveyed? 

The Prime Minister's Office says Auckland Public Health sent advice to Papatoetoe High on February 17 and 19 asking household members to get tested.

The school says it emailed the information to all students and parents.

"We sent as much as we could to everyone we had at our disposal," Couillault said.

  • If you have more information, email Michael Morrah in confidence at

Case L says neither she nor her sister, Case I, "a casual-plus" contact, got the emails.

The family's parents are originally from Vietnam - English isn't their first language. 

On February 22, Case L went to work at KFC. Auckland Public Health's website said on February 23, household members of casual plus contacts "don't need to isolate or get tested".

The school posted on Facebook asking household members to get tested on February 18. 

But on the 23rd, it stated "household members of students are not requested to have tests" but should isolate. 

Couillault said it was confusing.

"This was a really organic situation and the advice and requirements - even the testing stations were different in the first week than the second week," he said.

Contact tracers struggled to get hold of the family on the phone and via text. But didn't send anyone to their house. 

National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says more contact tracing resources are needed.

"We need to do more doorstep to doorstep if you like - appropriately distanced. But the whole solution cannot be just on a telephone," Dr Reti told Newshub.

New figures show how contact tracers have performed between February 14 and 19 - during the current Papatoetoe outbreak. 

From the time a person is exposed to the virus, the target is to contact and isolate 80 percent of people within 4 days. 

In April last year, Dr Ayesha Verrall's audit noted this is "critical".

  • Almost a year on, contact tracers are hitting 67 percent of Māori.
  • For non-Māori, it's only 52 percent. 

Dr Reti says it's very disappointing.

"So very disappointing to see the Ministry failing its own contact tracing metrics," told Newshub.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield on Tuesday said he will be reviewing the latest metrics.

He described current tracing as "successful" - but at the same time wanted his team to look at the data and tell him if the system is working as it should.