Coronavirus: Judith Collins, David Seymour criticise 'wrong' Auckland testing message sent by Government

The Opposition has criticised now-deleted social media posts from Unite Against COVID-19 which incorrectly urged all west and south Auckland residents to get a coronavirus test.

The message, which was published on Friday, said, "If you're in south or west Auckland, please have a test".

The message contradicted earlier guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, with both Health Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield urging those in good health to stay away from testing centres so workers could prioritise symptomatic people. 

Posts with this message have since been removed from all Unite Against COVID-19 pages.

National leader Judith Collins said the posts show Labour's "muddled and ad-hoc approach" to lockdown.

"We've seen mixed messages on the testing of border-facing staff, three-day tests and the use of PPE," she said.

"At a time when the country is losing thousands of jobs a week due to lockdown, the Prime Minister should stop playing the blame game and make sure her Government is holding up their end of the deal."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern slammed the social media posts on Sunday afternoon by calling them "oversimplified" and "wrong".

"We're working very hard now to deal with what that's created with the community and making sure that, of course, we're correcting that."

She added the messages made her "incredibly angry" due to the importance of being clear and direct with what protocols health officials ask the public to follow.

"It's made an ask that's just not correct. We are not asking every single person in west and south Auckland to get a test. That is not our ask, that's not what we're encouraging," Ardern said.

"We're asking people who have cold symptoms, who have flu symptoms and if they have any connection to the cases that we're currently very focussed on, those are the individuals who we want tested."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty Images

Ardern said an "issue" within government agencies is that not all communication is individually signed off by her, so there needs to be processes in place to ensure there isn't an "oversimplification of messaging".

"We just can't afford to have messages like that go out incorrectly," she said.

"Everything you've heard from this podium [during press conferences] consistently has said the same thing. Someone who unfortunately has been working on the [communications] hasn't adhered to what is being said here."

ACT leader David Seymour said it is "poor leadership" to blame communications staff for the messaging.

"The Prime Minister told me in Parliament the other day that we shouldn't be apportioning blame when mistakes happen. But now she's throwing staff under the bus," he said.

Seymour asked Ardern during Parliament's Question Time last week about a statement she made when she said she'd "reported reluctance amongst staff around asymptomatic testing".

She said this had been the subject of discussion amongst Cabinet Ministers while they were reviewing testing numbers, but she wasn't "interested in trying to apportion blame" onto health staff.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins then announced nearly a week after Ardern said this that he had a goal to test 70,000 people in the upcoming week.

But Seymour said Ardern "throwing staff under the bus" is part of a "pattern" in the Government.

"[Then-Health Minister] David Clark threw Ashley Bloomfield under the bus, too. In good times, we're all in this together. In bad times, they blame the help."

He added it reflects "confusion" about the Government's COVID-19 strategy and claimed "they're making it up as they go".