Coronavirus: Labour MP Willie Jackson slams criticism over COVID-19 border blunders

The only outbreaks New Zealand is suffering at the moment are from "hysteria and madness", Labour MP Willie Jackson has claimed.

Zero cases of COVID-19 have been found in the community despite more Kiwis lining up for tests than ever before in the past week. 

But there has been criticism of how the Government's handled the isolation and quarantine systems for returning Kiwis nonetheless, with revelations some new arrivals were released without being tested and an unverified claim from National a homeless man bagged himself two weeks' free shelter and food at the Crowne Plaza. 

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has been willing to take the blame for blunders - at least those that have been proven - and the Government has moved to plug the gaps, implementing stricter rules and ensuring tests are being done. 

Jackson told The AM Show on Friday the attacks on the Government and health officials in the past week have been "very unbecoming". 

"I heard this bloke over here rubbishing our wonderful Prime Minister the other day," Jackson said, motioning towards AM Show co-host and avid National Party supporter Mark Richardson.

"Let's put things in perspective - we've got an open economy, we've got more freedoms here you would agree than probably just about any country in the world... We're doing the business. When this is getting caught, it's getting caught at the border. There's no need for outbreaks of hysteria and madness."

While he couldn't say how many people have been let out of quarantine or isolation without being tested, he said it was "under control".

"There's no need for hysteria. The people who have been caught with the virus are people who have been picked up at the border. Why have they been picked up at the border? Because we have everything under control." 

Judith Collins and Willie Jackson.
Judith Collins and Willie Jackson. Photo credit: The AM Show

David Clark an 'utter disgrace'

Health Minister David Clark, widely criticised throughout the lockdown after breaching his own ministry's rules several times, has refused to take much responsibility for the mistakes at the border. 

"The Director-General has accepted that the protocol wasn't being followed. He has accepted responsibility for that... The Director-General has acknowledged that the system didn't deliver here," Dr Clark said on Wednesday. 

Dr Bloomfield was standing right behind him at the time, and was visibly disappointed. Jackson refused to talk about the incident, but said he wasn't too worried about their relationship. 

Judith Collins, appearing on The AM Show with Jackson, said Dr Clark should have been fired long ago.

"Helen Clark would never have left him in that job. Jacinda Ardern is failing in her leadership in this one... This guy was missing in action for a long time, down in Dunedin bike-riding and having fun. Well that's lovely, except he's got a job to do. 

"And secondly, look what he did to Ashley Bloomfield the other day - that was an utter disgrace, and he was smirking all the way through it."

Collins, a former minister, also lashed out at Dr Clark's admission he's yet to visit a quarantine facility.

"I used to find out the most amazing things when I'd go and visit Corrections and police and stuff. I'd go back and say to the head honchos 'hang on - this is what I saw, this is what's going on and you need to sort that out'. I think that's what you do." 

New Zealand has 13 known active cases of COVID-19 at present, none in the community at large. University of Auckland disease modelling specialist Shaun Hendy told The AM Show on Thursday we should expect to see about 12 new cases a week arrive at the border.