COVID-19: Police Minister Stuart Nash says someone needs to be held accountable over coronavirus cases slip-up

Police Minister Stuart Nash says someone needs to be held accountable over New Zealand's two new cases of COVID-19, which emerged in circumstances the Prime Minister has labelled "unacceptable".

The new cases were announced on Tuesday after a 24-day run of no new infections. They were two women who had flown in from the UK and were allowed to drive to Wellington after being granted a compassionate exemption to attend a funeral, but they weren't tested beforehand despite one showing minor symptoms.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Tuesday the women only had close contact with one family member when they arrived in Wellington.

Nash told Newstalk ZB there needed to be a review of quarantine measures.

"It is totally unacceptable when five million Kiwis do it really tough to eliminate this stuff - to get this sort of ineptitude - man it is unforgivable.

Police Minister Stuart Nash.
Police Minister Stuart Nash. Photo credit: Newshub.

"As [Health Minister] David [Clark] said, he's cancelled the compassionate dispensation and he's doing a review of the system and let's make sure this does not happen again.

"I would have thought you don't leave [quarantine] until you test negative but somehow the system failed and we've got to sort that out because, as mentioned, it is just unconscionable that this could happen."  

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday expressed her disappointment at the circumstances of the new cases.

Appearing on The AM Show on Wednesday morning, Health Minister Dr David Clark said he wouldn't resign over the matter despite calls from Opposition leader Todd Muller for him to be sacked.

"The testing around people leaving is something that's clearly not in place as I thought it was - we were told that people [in quarantine] would be tested on day three and day 12 from the start of alert level 1," Dr Clark said on Wednesday.

"That assurance came through the Director-General Health from the Ministry of Health."

Dr Clark mentioned a new process was set up at each alert level to ensure systems were rigorous.

"I want to be assured that the system at the border - the quarantine system - is working properly because New Zealanders have made huge sacrifices here.

Health Minister Dr David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Health Minister Dr David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

"This has not met my expectations, I don't think it's met New Zealanders' expectations."

Asked by host Duncan Garner if he'd lost confidence in Director-General of Health Dr Ashely Bloomfield, Clark said he "wasn't interested in a witch hunt". He said Dr Bloomfield was "sorry" and was working out how it wouldn't happen again.

"I said the system has failed us here," Dr Clark said. "I want this to be put right and I think all New Zealanders want to see this put right very quickly," he said.

It's not the first time the Health Minister has come under fire during the COVID-19 pandemic. During alert level 4, he went mountain biking and on a trip to the beach. 

Ardern said she would have sacked him had it not been for the pandemic. Instead, Dr Clark was demoted and stripped of another role.

Earlier on Wednesday, National leader Muller said he has to go.

"New Zealand woke up this morning rightly angry and furious quite frankly," Muller told The AM Show.

"We have put, collectively, so much effort into ensuring that we were COVID free and the idea that we have clumsy and slack border approaches overseen by a minister who just has seemed to drop the ball on anything he touches."