Coronavirus: Health Minister criticised for revealing COVID-19 case on TV with no details

Paula Bennett has criticised the Health Minister for revealing New Zealand's third coronavirus case live on The AM Show without providing further details for hours. 

Bennett, the National Party's deputy leader, asked the Government in Parliament why it took "almost six hours" for the Ministry of Health to provide details about the case, after Health Minister David Clark broke the news. 

Dr Clark confirmed New Zealand had a third case of coronavirus, or COVID-19, early on Thursday morning, telling The AM Show: "I don't have other specific details to hand at this stage... There will be a media update later today."

It wasn't until 1pm when the Ministry of Health released a statement confirming an Auckland man in his 40s was the third case. It was revealed he had recently visited Iran, where the Government has imposed a temporary travel ban. 

"Why did it take almost six hours after the Minister of Health to confirm a third case of COVID-19 on live television this morning, for the director-general of health to provide any further details for the public?" Bennett asked. 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters defended Dr Clark, telling Bennett the Government is leaving those questions to medical experts and "not making jaundice political decisions about it". 

The New Zealand First leader said the Government is "acting in a responsible and timely manner and at the behest of the medical experts."

Peters slammed the National Party deputy leader's "attempt to sensationalise what is a problem we as a country must all face together".

Winston Peters defended Health Minister David Clark after Paula Bennett criticised him for revealing New Zealand's third coronavirus case live on The AM Show without providing further details for hours.
Winston Peters defended Health Minister David Clark after Paula Bennett criticised him for revealing New Zealand's third coronavirus case live on The AM Show without providing further details for hours. Photo credit: Parliament TV

How is the Government responding to COVID-19?

As the economic impact of coronavirus deepens across the globe, Finance Minister Grant Robertson revealed on Thursday he is focused on providing targeted financial solutions over blanket subsidies. 

Robertson, who had just finished a meeting with the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council, said it was "clear that what we need here is specific targeted solutions for particular industries and particular regions, at this time". 

It comes after the Finance Minister told The AM Show earlier in the week that he was "keeping all options on the table", including tax cuts and even cash-in-hand for all, if the economic impact of coronavirus worsened.

He told Magic Talk: "I haven't taken anything off the table, but we've got to do measures that are going to work in the immediate term, and then look to the long term impacts, and you'll hear more about that in the lead-up to the Budget.

"The virus has spread to countries other than China, and that's having an impact on people's health and daily lives... But it's also having an impact on aspects of the economy - who we export our goods to and where we get our goods from.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said he's keeping "all options on the table" as the Government responds to the economic fall-out of coronavirus.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said he's keeping "all options on the table" as the Government responds to the economic fall-out of coronavirus. Photo credit: Newshub

"We recognise that we've already got short-term measures underway to support individuals and businesses through the Ministry of Social Development, IRD and so on."

The Government has already announced an $11 million fund for tourism and the Ministry of Social Development is offering assistance to workers in affected industries.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Government had "agreed in principle" to remove the stand-down period for beneficiaries seeking support from Work and Income amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

She also said there are ongoing discussions about bringing roading projects forward in Gisborne and using the forestry workforce on those projects with a "bit of extra training and support" to keep people working.  

Mercury chief executive Fraser Whineray, chair of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council, said it's good the Government has been talking to banks about short term and long term scenarios because it's still "very early days". 

The Opposition isn't satisfied, with National MP and finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith calling for an "immediate small-to-medium-sized business support package". 

He said businesses need "clear and urgent action from the Government to help them through this period of uncertainty, not just tinkering around the edges and ad-hoc announcements that lack detail".

So far, coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 3200 people across the globe, with more than 95,000 cases confirmed worldwide.

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