COVID-19: Number of MIQ workers who failed to get tested revealed

The Government has no idea how many border workers have not been complying with mandatory testing rules - but Newshub has discovered part of that answer.

Newshub can reveal that last week, around 450 workers at New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine facilities failed to get a test on time - and up to 85 of them may never got a test at all.

The mandatory testing rules for MIQ workers were made clear in September last year.

But monitoring and compliance with that critical testing programme has been poor.

"I think we're seeing a lot of areas where the data collection and system are way too loose," says Otago University epidemiologist Professor Nick Wilson.

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There are 4497 workers in our MIQ hotels. Figures provided to Newshub show last week 90 percent were compliant with the mandatory testing rules.

That means 10 percent of workers were non-compliant - so 450 workers missed their scheduled weekly or fortnightly tests.

"It should not be 10 percent. It should just be 1 or 2 percent," says Prof Wilson.

"These are areas that do need far more attention if we're going to have really high quality border control."

Of that 450 missing their scheduled tests, the minister's office told Newshub 19 percent of them - or 85 workers - were non-compliant for an unknown reason and they're investigating whether they've ever had a test.

Although when Hipkins spoke of how big the non-compliance with testing might be, he said this: "There is a breakdown of the number of people every week being tested and it does not appear to be a large-scale problem."

Prof Wilson has a different opinion: "The numbers speak for themselves. There is a problem here."

The Opposition agrees.

"We've got to make sure the testing regime is as effective as possible. To find that 450 in a single week are not complying with the compulsory testing requirement is extraordinary," says Chris Bishop, National's COVID-19 response spokesperson.

"It's not good enough and it's putting all of our lives at risk."

Hipkins told Newshub the "vast majority" of non-compliant workers were not tested as it was a weekend or they were not rostered on a shift.

Bishop says that's not relevant. He says the point of the programme is to get tested on time as per the Government's order - as it only takes one failure for COVID to spread.