Jacinda Ardern demands explanation from Ministry of Health over test result delay of Pullman Hotel guests

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not ruling out more cases of COVID-19 in the community until all test results of the Pullman Hotel guests are returned, and she's demanded an explanation for the delay from the Ministry of Health. 

The Pullman Hotel is the latest COVID-19 petri dish. It's getting no new arrivals since the Northland woman, a man and his son tested positive after their stay, and it'll be deep cleaned. 

Remaining guests are in lockdown. Outside their rooms, the spread of COVID-19 remains a mystery. 

"It's uncomfortable. You kind of take stock in your head of everything you've touched over the past week," said Tenani French, who has just three days left in isolation at the Pullman.

"They've been very onto it even down in the exercise area which is probably the only place we really encounter anybody else. It's monitored the whole time, there's someone from the Army or something watching us."

The three cases that got into the community from the hotel were roaming out of their rooms at the same time - more than once.

"There is a period of time - several days - where all three were in the hotel at the same time and so there are several occasions when there have been overlaps," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday. 

And because the CCTV cameras in the Pullman aren't up to scratch - there are blind spots making it harder to know exactly what went down.

"I can't say for certain that every common area is covered," Hipkins said. 

The two new cases were only caught because guests staying at the same time as the Northland case were asked to get tested. 

The Prime Minister won't rule out further cases of COVID-19 in the community until all the tests are returned. 

"I'm going to wait for final results from everyone within that band who has exited the Pullman," she said.

And the wait continues. 

Testing the 353 guests has been too slow. On Wednesday, three days after the Northland case was identified, 98 people still had to be followed up. On Thursday, we're still waiting for results for 52 people.

"It may be that the majority of those people have been tested and we're just waiting for the negative results to come through," said Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield. 

Mobile testing could have been deployed but wasn't.

"The Ministry of Health should be moving heaven and earth to contact those people as quickly as possible, bang down their door if necessary, and make sure those people are tested," said National's COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Bishop. 

The Prime Minister has demanded a 'please explain' from health over the delay. 

"We do need to look at that lag for a very small number," she said. 

The Government tightened up one isolation rule on Thursday: No one can leave their rooms after their day 12 test and their departure on day 14. And tougher restrictions could follow.

"If that means adding in some extra requirements once you leave, that is absolutely what we're looking at," Ardern said. 

But so far just looking - not doing.