COVID-19: David Parker dubs MIQ 'probably the best system in the world' despite COVID-19 testing slipups

Labour's David Parker says the Government's managed isolation operation is "probably the best system in the world" despite recent revelations of testing slipups.  

Managed isolation officials revealed earlier this week that a border worker at Auckland's Grand Millennium facility - who tested positive for COVID-19 last week - had not been previously tested since November.  

The border worker is a security guard who should have been tested fortnightly, as per the Government's order issued in September. The Government's understanding is he lied to his employer about his testing record, but this is under investigation. 

The head of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), MBIE deputy chief executive Megan Main, told The AM Show on Thursday 74 border workers might not have been tested for COVID-19 at all, defying the Government's order. 

National MP Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Friday it's not good enough. 

"It's been like a feijoa honesty box on the side of the road," he said. "That's okay for an honesty box, but it's not okay for Government. It has not been competent."

Parker, a Cabinet minister, told The AM Show MIQ  can "always be better" but "we're confident it's going very well". 

"He's misled his employers, he's misled us all," he said of the security worker, despite the ongoing investigation into his testing history. 

"It's still true that we've had 135,000 people through MIQ and we've only had seven incidents, so that's pretty incredible. I also don't want to pan all the MIQ workers - they do a very difficult [job]. When we criticise the one bad apple, you've got to be careful you don't criticise the whole system." 

Labour's David Parker on The AM Show with National MP Simon Bridges.
Labour's David Parker on The AM Show with National MP Simon Bridges. Photo credit: The AM Show

First Security, the border worker's employer, said in a statement it has proof of up-to-date COVID-19 testing from all guards working at managed isolation facilities.  

"If a guard's status shows they are non-compliant in the border worker testing system, First Security takes all necessary steps to ensure testing is undertaken," the company said. 

"As this individual is still recovering from the virus at the Jet Park quarantine facility we will not be commenting further on his case until he has been released and we are able to complete an investigation into his compliance with COVID-19 testing protocols."

While the legal obligation for border workers to be tested regularly has been in place since September, there was no obligation for employers across the border to use the Government's central testing register. 

Only about 300 out of 589 employers have been using it.

The Government has announced that from April 27, it will be mandatory for employers across the border to use the central testing register.

Parker says the MIQ system is "damn near perfect". 

"I think it's probably the best system in the world. We're constantly improving it. It's not perfect, it never will be, but the stats show it - 135,000 through it so far and only seven incursions," he said. 

"These 4500 people [working in MIQ], they're not prisoners on parole with ankle bracelets - we actually do rely upon them telling their employer and us the truth. It's working because this is a very, very rare incident."

Parker also defended the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which has been criticised by the Opposition as too slow. 

"We've chosen the Pfizer vaccine, wisely in my view and their deliveries ramp up over time. If we went hard early on the vaccine rollout, we would have then had to drop back our vaccine numbers because our supplies of the vaccine wouldn't have matched."

The Ministry of Health unveiled their plan for the vaccine rollout on Thursday, with a chart showing how it will start ramping up from July when the general population starts getting jabs. 

COVID-19: David Parker dubs MIQ 'probably the best system in the world' despite COVID-19 testing slipups
Photo credit: Supplied

"We're confident we're on target," Parker said. "We're confident it's going to go well."