Jacinda Ardern fires up at Judith Collins over 'suggestion we weren't willing to acknowledge' wrong testing instructions

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has fired up at Opposition leader Judith Collins over her "suggestion" the Government wasn't "willing to acknowledge" incorrect testing instructions posted online. 

Collins took aim at Ardern in Parliament over the Government being forced to apologise for putting out false information over the weekend which led to thousands of Aucklanders queuing up for COVID-19 tests when they didn't need to. 

"Why did it take her Government nearly four days to react and remove information it had published on its official COVID-19 social media accounts asking everyone in south and west Auckland to get a test?" Collins asked on Tuesday. 

The Prime Minister said as soon as she was made aware of the botch-up she directly alerted her team who then directly alerted the team who are responsible. That was on Sunday morning and it was removed by 1:37pm, Ardern said. 

"I think the important point to make here is this was obviously never the official advice of the Director-General or advice that ever came to Government or a decision that was ever made. Something of that nature, you can imagine, we would have been amplifying."

The incorrect message telling south and west Aucklanders to get tested was published on Friday on the Ministry of Health website. It was then posted on the Government's official 'Unite Against COVID-19' social media pages. 

Ardern was asked about the message during her Sunday press conference, and she described it as "wrong" and "over-simplified". She also said the message made her "incredibly angry" because of its potential to cause alarm. 

"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," she said. 

Ardern began the press conference on Sunday by explaining why Auckland was moving to alert level 2 despite there still being cases of COVID-19 in the community. She did not mention the miscommunication until she was asked about it. 

Collins asked Ardern in Parliament on Tuesday why she did not use her 16-minute preamble during the press conference on Sunday to address the incorrect testing instructions published online if it was so important.  

The question was met with a fiery response from Ardern. 

"The suggestion somehow that we weren't willing to acknowledge the incorrect posting of information... We are constantly available, every day, to answer questions about our COVID response," Ardern said. 

"We are here to be accountable on our COVID response. We never shy away from that duty. If the member is somehow in the assumption that because I wanted to share correct information in my stand-up as opposed to incorrect information, that is for the member's own interpretation.

"I simply do not accept that we would ever put ourselves in a position to not front up because we do it every day."

Ardern said if the instruction was legitimate it wouldn't have been sent out on social media. 

"If it were a message as important and as significant as an expectation to test hundreds of thousands of people in that way, that is something we would not leave to a website or an Instagram or a Twitter post," she said. 

"It would be something that we would amplify if that was the advice of the Director-General of Health and something that health wished to have as a message to request of the public."

She urged MPs to help share accurate information with the public. 

"I know all members in this House will wish for members of the public to have information that is accurate and reliable so again I always implore all members, regardless of the side of the House that you're on, to continue to share messaging around getting tested."

The Government has launched an investigation into how the incorrect messaging was shared online.