COVID-19 leak: Coronavirus patient data saga 'horrible and irresponsible' - political commentator

Political commentator Grant Duncan says it's "horrible and irresponsible" politicians were involved in the leaking of New Zealand's COVID-19 patients' personal information after a National MP outed himself as the culprit on Tuesday.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker on Tuesday admitted leaking the information of 18 cases, after it was revealed last week the patients' names, ages, addresses, and other personal details had been sent to three media outlets.

Duncan, of Massey University, says it was a bad play by the Walker, who has apologised for his mishandling of the information.

"This is a horrible, irresponsible thing to do because there are people who have this very sensitive and dangerous disease, and their names have been bandied about politicians and newsrooms around the country," Duncan told Newshub on Tuesday. 

Walker said his intention behind leaking the COVID-19 patient details was to show holes in Government security systems. Duncan said what Walker did was morally wrong.

"He wanted to embarrass the Government rather than do the responsible thing and to approach the Ministry of Health and say, 'it appears we have a problem'." 

Hamish Walker.
Hamish Walker. Photo credit: File

Walker said by exposing the privacy issue he hoped the Government would improve protocols. National leader Todd Muller condemned Walker for his "error" and stripped him of his portfolios.

It's not the first time Walker has been in the headlines in recent days. Last week, he sent out a statement with comments on Kiwis arriving back in the country from Asia and was accused of racism.

Duncan said Walker had now made two "serious errors of judgement". It was also revealed on Tuesday the personal details were sent to Walker by former National Party President Michelle Boag.

Boag said in a statement on Tuesday the information became available to her in her role as acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust. She's since resigned from that role.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday night after revelations Walker was behind the leak, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said he was disappointed.

"I want to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible so that if there are any weaknesses in the system, they can be rectified as quickly as possible."

Hipkins said he's grateful the leaked personal details were not published.

"I do want to, again, thank the media for the fact that they received what should be personal and confidential information about people [and] not published it."

Walker said in his statement on Tuesday he's received legal advice and had not committed a criminal offence.

"I sincerely apologise for how I have handled this information and to the individuals impacted by this," he said.