Jacinda Ardern admits 'expectations have not been met' as COVID-19 lockdown testimonies shock MPs

The Prime Minister is admitting "expectations have not been met" as testimonies from Kiwis who struggled through the strict alert level 4 lockdown rules left MPs in shock. 

The Epidemic Response Committee heard a range of testimonies on Wednesday from the likes of Wellington mum Rebecca Burgess who was forced to be alone after giving birth in hospital because her husband was not allowed to stay in the room. 

Her testimony left MPs in shock, with Opposition leader Simon Bridges admitting it was upsetting, while National MP Louise Upston held back tears telling Burgess how "amazing" it was that she had the courage to share it. 

The Opposition-led committee also heard about a woman who found out about a miscarriage while her husband was forced to stay in the car park outside, and parents who were not allowed to see their son's body in peace after his suicide. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday the strict rules were put in place to protect New Zealanders from the coronavirus pandemic that was rapidly spreading across the globe. 

"Ultimately, we've had to make decisions to try and protect people's health," Ardern said when questioned about it by Newshub during her daily press conference. "We have never discounted the effect [the rules were] having on people's lives."

Ardern admitted the Government's expectations have not been met, saying: "I don't think anyone would think that, even in these extraordinary times, that would be reasonable." 

Pointing to Burgess' testimony, Ardern said there is always risk to patients of having visitors coming and going, but when it comes to someone having a baby, she said: "Nobody should go through that experience alone". 

Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield said it's important to hear these stories and understand the impact on individuals and their whānau.  

"These are things we will use to inform our approach as we move through and down the alert levels but also updating our policies if we have to move up the alert levels."

Burgess told the committee there was "no real action and no real leadership" and that a "consistent national direction was non-existent and information was hard to get". 

She said her experience was that different district health boards (DHBs) had "different rules", highlighting how some hospitals allowed partners to stay with their pregnant spouse while others did not. 

Dr Bloomfield said he doesn't think the Government has failed anyone, but said the Ministry of Health will be "looking to make sure where there is a reasonable expectation for consistency, that that will be the case". 

He said what's important is that the Government has that heard those testimonies and "we will work with the district health boards to get an understanding of what happened in those situations, and use them as a learning experience". 

The Prime Minister said these are "traumatic events made even more traumatic as the country was in lockdown", and she acknowledged that it's the Governments' responsibility to take every Kiwi's circumstance into account.

On Thursday, she will announce details about alert level 2 and next Monday Cabinet will decide if the country is ready to shift out of alert level 3, which still restricts retail and face-to-face transaction. 

The Ministry of Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, following two consecutive days of no new cases in New Zealand.