National's Todd Muller is backing Michael Woodhouse despite the health spokesperson's allegation that a homeless man stayed in an Auckland isolation facility unable to be verified.
Last week on The AM Show, Woodhouse, a National MP, alleged that a "reliable source", said to be an Auckland-based health professional, had told him of a homeless man staying in a facility used to house people returning to New Zealand. He said the anecdote was not verified.
"One of the five-star hotels housed a homeless person for a couple of weeks under the pretence that it was someone who came back from overseas. When the person was ready for discharge, he was asked for a forwarding address, only to tell the official that he didn't have one - because he was homeless," Woodhouse revealed to The AM Show.
But Woodhouse's claim could just be a fantastical story, with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield saying on Tuesday that it could not be verified.
"A homeless person who apparently spent some time in managed isolation in Auckland, as far as we can tell, this cannot be verified and may well be an urban myth," he said.
Following Dr Bloomfield's comments, Stuff said Woodhouse was standing by his claim and later published a letter to the National MP from Megan Woods, the minister in charge of the facilities, saying inquiries found no evidence to back up his claim. She asked the MP for further information.
But Muller, the party's leader, is standing by the Dunedin-based MP.
"He had a source that was particularly reliable and he stood by it and that's fine by me. Megan Woods needs to keep looking through all the people that supposedly should have been tested that aren't tested, that are out in the community," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.
He ruled out National concocting the claim.
"Michael Woodhouse got rung from a member of the community who has got great connections and he stands by that individual and good on him."
The leader doesn't know who the source is.
"I trust my people. Michael Woodhouse is a tremendous performer, a frontbench minister of the next National Government come September who will know how to manage a border, who won't just simply say 'oh, it appears to be being done. I am actually going to want to see that the tests are being done'."
Host Duncan Garner asked Muller that if it was found Woodhouse's claim wasn't true, would he sack the health spokesperson?
"No, look it's a complete distraction. He backs his source and he said it is legit so I back him. The focus from our perspective is 'come on, Government. Tell us how many people you have missed testing over the last four weeks'."
Pushed on the question, Muller continued to say he stood behind Woodhouse.
"If your MP comes to you and says 'I have someone who has spoken to me from the community and says this to be true and that person is well-respected within the community', you support them and that's what Michael has done and I support Michael."
Woodhouse presented his claim as yet another bungle by authorities at the border after it was revealed last week that two sisters let out of managed isolation on compassionate leave weren't tested and found out they had COVID-19 days later. It was expected people in the facilities would be tested on day three and 12 of their stays.
Muller said the Government's routines at the border have been shoddy.
"The only people who are wasting New Zealand's time at the moment is the Government. They had one job to do. How many people came in off the planes? Test them when they arrive in terms of should they be in quarantine or managed isolation and test them while they are in those rooms twice, and they have failed completely."
There have been questions over the last week about how many of the 55 people released early from managed isolation between June 9 and 16 were not tested. On Tuesday night, it was revealed that number is 51.
Following the two sisters testing positive, compassionate leave exemptions were suspended and the Government put Air Commodore Digby Webb in charge of the facilities with Woods having ministerial authority.
Among several actions Webb and Woods have announced is doubling the number of defence force staff at managed isolation and quarantine facilities, ordering an urgent review of the systems, and suspending private functions at managed isolation facilities.
New Zealand has 10 active cases of COVID-19, all of which are imported from overseas, highlighting the need for tight border controls.