Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern orders review into quarantined people wanting exemption to visit dying relatives

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ordered a review of 24 cases of people in mandatory quarantine who want an exemption to see dying relatives.

The move follows Ardern publically giving the wrong information that 18 people who had recently returned to New Zealand had been allowed out to visit ill family members. The real number is actually zero.

She gave the incorrect number at her press conference Monday and the Ministry of Health has been forced to apologise.

She has now asked the Minister of Health David Clark to review all 24 cases of Kiwis returning home from overseas asking for an exemption from quarantine - meaning they may get the chance to get home.

The only person who has managed to do so is Oliver Christiansen, who had to go to court to be allowed.

He was being held under 14-day quarantine but wanted to see his dying father. He later won a High Court case to visit him. 

A High Court judge has found the reasons for keeping Christiansen in quarantine were "legally flawed".

Christiansen is staying at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland, one of the hotels where returning Kiwis are kept in quarantine. But he needed to get out and visit his father who had terminal cancer, so he took an appeal to the courts to do it.

"For me and my family, it turned out to be critically important. We were battling with the process for eight days. Mercifully I managed to make it home and then 36 hours later my father passed away. So we didn't have any time to lose," he says.

He returned from London to see his father. His condition had worsened and the medical advice was that he wouldn't make it.

Christiansen applied to the Ministry of Health for an exemption on compassionate grounds but was turned down three times. So he went to the top.

"The replies that I received from [Director-General of Health Dr] Ashley Bloomfield and the Prime Minister's office both just sent me back to that same Ministry of Health team that had already rejected me three times."

His parents live in Auckland and he was proposing to go straight there and then return to quarantine after his father's death.

"The court really became the last throw of the dice," he says.

The High Court found "the decisions to decline permission are on their face legally flawed".

Justice Tracey Walker said it had the "hallmarks of automatic rejection based on circumscribed criteria rather than a proper exercise of discretion". In other words, officials rejected out of hand without compassion.

Walker added decisions "must have a clear and certain basis" and "they must be proportionate to the justified objective of protecting New Zealand".

Christiansen's lawyer Simon Foote QC says this shows the Ministry of Health needs to make exceptions in the future.

"They need to use that discretion in a more compassionate way than they did with Mr Christiansen," Foote says.

Christiansen hopes the ministry will make changes for the future.

"If that can lift the burden for other people coming into New Zealand suffering the same unfortunate circumstance, I think my Dad would be thrilled, absolutely thrilled to know that was the result. And to me, that is a fitting final tribute to him."