COVID-19: Government slammed for 1pm press conferences, 'spin' reporting of vaccine rollout

A right-leaning political commentator is criticising the Government for not getting to the facts straight away at its daily COVID-19 press conferences.

Daily 1pm coronavirus news conferences, usually fronted by Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and either Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern or COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, have become a part of New Zealand life again - with Kiwis glued to their screens eager to find out the latest case numbers.

But National leader Judith Collins last weekend criticised the Government for not releasing details outside of that press conference, which Ardern has previously described as "the single source of truth" when it came to New Zealand's COVID-19 response. 

Several pundits and media commentators have since commented, urging the Government to release case details straight away and "cut down on the spin" about how many vaccines have been administered - often how the conferences begin.  

"You see, the Government knows it's cocked up the vaccine rollout, so they're desperate to spin that we haven't. So we get spoon-fed good news and reports of daily records being reached," broadcaster Ryan Bridge said on The AM Show last week.

"But spin like this, before you've told scared and desperate Kiwis - trying to corral the kids to shut up for five minutes so you can hear one, how many goddamn cases have we got and two, did I visit a location of interest - is, well, pretty shameless."

Another pundit, former ACT Party staffer Trish Sherson, agreed - calling it a joke.

"The fact that at the top of the pressers we had adjectives like 'incredible' and 'amazing' before we got the vaccination numbers were just utterly ridiculous and, before that, the fact that we were being told how many vaccinations were being booked was just nonsense. I mean, when did you last solve a health problem by just making an appointment to go to the doctor?"

Sherson told The AM Show it was ridiculous.

"The team [of 5 million] has been doing the job that it has been told to do at every point - we've done the heavy lifting. 

"What we've figured out in the last week is that, actually, the coaching staff aren't quite up to the job at the moment. The spin that we're getting around the vaccine rollout… needs to stop."

But former Labour Party president Mike Williams, appearing on The AM Show with Sherson, said her language was a "very strong right-wing interpretation".

"It seems to me that those 1pm press conferences have two important functions and all the Government has done is change the order of delivery," WIlliams said.

"Everyone tunes in to find out what the [COVID] numbers are… but there are also some really important messages to be delivered by the Prime Minister and Trish should realise that research will tell you, that Jacinda Ardern has sky-high trust even amongst the few people that still support the National Party."

Williams said Ardern needed to take advantage of that trust to get the Government's message across.

"If you want a contrast - I suggest you go on Sky TV Australia… and have a look at [NSW state Premier] Gladys Berejiklian trying to explain what's going on there because that government has screwed up big time."

Vaccination messages at the press conferences would encourage others to get theirs, Williams said.

"The only thing that we need to know is when we can get vaccinated and how quickly," Sherson retorted. "All we need right now are the facts.

"There's no point putting any spin around the vaccination programme because the facts are that the vaccination programme has been run out too slowly in New Zealand.

"We had eight months ahead of Delta to see what was happening."

Ultimately, the Government should be setting vaccination targets, Sherson said - something Ardern has said they won't do.

"We have kept New Zealanders safe and we will continue to do so while we have the full-scale ramp-up of our vaccination campaign," the Prime Minister said last week. "We need to have as many New Zealanders as possible vaccinated if we want to protect them against the kinds of outbreaks that  you are still seeing in both those countries."