Health Minister Chris Hipkins commits to overhaul reporting of COVID-19 testing after Newshub uncovers massive shortfalls

A Newshub investigation has found huge shortfalls in the Government's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) testing numbers. 

As a result, Health Minister Chris Hipkins has done a rapid stocktake of day three and 12 tests and committed to overhaul the way the Government reports on it. 

The Government's MIQ facilities are New Zealand's main defence against COVID-19 and returnees are all supposed to get two tests, one on day three of their stay and the second on day 12 - but not everyone is.

Day three tests are not compulsory but if you refuse a day 12 test you're forced to stay another 14 days in isolation, and so far 15 people have. 

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if she could give the public a cast-iron guarantee that enough testing is being done of returnees in MIQ facilities. 

"Yes, yes I am very confident in our managed isolation regime," Jacinda Ardern said. 

But the Government couldn't provide numbers on how many haven't had a day three test. 

The policy was introduced on June 9. 

Newshub has analysed MIQ data published daily by the Government beginning six weeks after the double testing was introduced. 

Between 18 July and August 24, the number of day three and 12 tests required was 23,689 but the number completed was only 18,304 - a shortfall of 5,385

When Newshub alerted the Government to these numbers a rapid stock-take was ordered. The figures provided to Newshub on Thursday only include those who have arrived back this month. 

"A new database was put in place from the beginning of August which is now giving us better information," Hipkins said. 

Of the just over 7200 who came back in August, 7043 - or 97.5 percent - have received at least one test, but only 5055 have received both, while 179 people have not been tested at all. 

  • Number of returnees into New Zealand from August 1 to August 20: 7222
  • Number of returnees who arrived from August 1 to August 20 who have received at least one test: 7043
  • Percentage of returnees who arrived from August 1 to August 20 and received at least one test: 97.5 percent
  • Returnees who arrived between August 1 and August 20 and no testing data is recorded: 179

Some of those might not have been in isolation long enough to get their tests yet.

"I'm absolutely confident the testing has been happening as it needed to be happening but the reporting of that has not been as transparent and robust as it needed to be," Hipkins said. 

The Government still can't provide an explanation for the 5500 shortfall in testing, despite a team of about 15 number crunchers working on it since Wednesday afternoon. 

But as a direct response to this story, the Health Minister has told Newshub that from next week they will be changing the way they record and report testing data to try and regain public confidence in the system.