Coronavirus: Judith Collins slams 'appalling' decisions to stop the dying being comforted by loved ones

National MP Judith Collins says it's "appalling" some dying Kiwis have been denied having their loved ones at their side as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

There have reportedly been a couple of dozen cases of requests to see dying relatives have been turned down, the decisions left to local health officials rather than being enshrined in the lockdown legislation.

One man who was repeatedly denied the chance to visit his dying father was even denied a COVID-19 test to prove it would be safe, as he wasn't showing symptoms. A judge last Friday overruled health officials, and the son got to spend one last day by his father's side before he passed away of brain cancer. 

And on Thursday, an Otaki woman told The AM Show how they ended up taking their dying father out of hospital so he could be with family, as the hospital wouldn't let them in.

"We had to make the choice between him having the monitoring and hospital-level care that he probably still needed, and him wanting to have his close family around him while he was dying," said Tania Barker, who's father Ken later told her "well done". 

"There is something very wrong in that decision-making and we need to have it sorted, just in case we have to go back into this sort of lockdown," Collins told The AM Show on Friday.

New Zealand next week will find out if we're staying at level 3 or moving to level 2. If we stay at level 3, or have to go back to level 3 should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur under level 2's looser restrictions, Collins says the rules need to be clearer.

"One of the problems that we've had with some of the decisions... is that some of these have been based on 'is this essential'? Actually it should have been in many cases, can this be done safely? When a dying man can't see his daughter before he dies just in case she infects him with COVID-19, which she doesn't have, is absolutely appalling."

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield earlier this week announced a review into how exemptions from visitor restrictions were being handled, following the judge's ruling on Friday.

Labour MP Willie Jackson said it's "been hard" and his heart goes out to the affected families.

"The Ministry of Health in the main has got it right, and they're reviewing things at the moment. But compassion is everything and my heart goes out to those people." 

He said many Māori have been upset with some of the restrictions around tangi, with a maximum of 10 allowed to attend.

"We've copped it a bit from our people." 

Willie Jackson.
Willie Jackson. Photo credit: The AM Show

But he said the most important thing is safety, and avoiding having to "yo-yo" between alert levels and the uncertainty that would cause.

"Have a look at Singapore - they came out of lockdown early, they congratulated themselves, next minute they're back into lockdown and the statistics are spiking every single day. Go to Sweden, and they did nothing - all of a sudden they've got horrendous figures, 3000 people dying. 

"You know, we aren't going to keep everyone happy. We know that. We want the economy rocking again, absolutely. But we've got to have health and people's lives at the forefront... We're gonna upset people along the way and we're sorry about that, but we have to be careful." 

So far New Zealand has had 22 deaths from COVID-19. Sweden, which has about twice the population of New Zealand, has had 138 times as many deaths after deciding against a lockdown. Its chief epidemiologist this week said the death toll "really came as a surprise" and wasn't part of the plan.