Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern says 'no evidence' to support Northland case gang claims

The Prime Minister says there is "no evidence" to support claims that a prominent gang leader was travelling with a COVID-19 case across Northland earlier in October.

Northland was thrown into alert level 3 lockdown overnight over concerns about the risk posed to the community from a positive case who had earlier this month travelled across the region. 

According to the Government, the woman has not been cooperating with contact tracing efforts, but it's believed she travelled "extensively" around Northland between October 2 and 6. She has since returned to Auckland and is now in a quarantine facility.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Friday that the woman is thought to have used fraudulent information to gain a border exemption and had been travelling with someone else in Northland.

Former deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on Saturday morning alleged the woman's companion was Hawke's Bay-based Mongrel Mob life member Harry Tam, who was earlier permitted to travel to Auckland to help ramp up vaccination efforts among marginalised groups. 

Peters claimed on Newshub Nation that the woman hid in a marae and the Government knew of the situation "days ago". Similar versions of these allegations have also been circulating online and been sent to Newshub.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday there was nothing to support them. 

"There is no evidence to back up some of the claims that have been circulating online and on social media," she said.

"What we do know from video and CCTV footage is the individual in question was travelling with a woman, we know that for the place in which they were staying for that period of time has also confirmed they were travelling with a woman [sic], and the person that has been implicated through some of that social media chat has themselves confirmed they were not in the Northland region."

Tam earlier told TVNZ that Peters was wrong and denied he had been in Northland. 

Ardern said the Government would "operate on the evidence and the facts we have", noting police are involved in identifying where the woman has been and who she has been in contact with.

In its 1pm media update, the Ministry of Health said the person who is "thought to have travelled with this case", has not yet been able to be contacted. 

Ardern said it has been "extraordinarily frustrating" that the case won't cooperate. 

"This is a case where the individual, despite the involvement of the police, has not been forthcoming and that is why we took a very precautionary approach and that was the right one."

She said officials are using every tool available to them, such as CCTV footage, to nail down the case's movements, but there are still "large gaps".

In the meantime, she encouraged anyone who has been to a location of interest or is symptomatic in Northland to get tested and also get vaccinated. A number of locations of interest in the region are listed on the Ministry of Health website, including the Department of Conservation's Uretiti campsite.