A new Auckland Covid-19 cases initially ignored advice to get a test and was thus able to move around the city for four days before they tested positive.
A press statement from the National Hauora Coalition Primary Healthcare Organisation published late yesterday by NZ Doctor said a patient had presented themselves to their Otahuhu clinic on August 6 and was advised to go to a local community testing centre.
“This is standard practice for clinics that are not designated swabbing centres,” the statement said..
“On August 10 they presented again to our clinic where our General Practitioner established the test had not been done and advised them again as a priority to do so at a local testing centre.
The Centre got the result of that test — positive — back yesterday morning and as a consequence, the PHO immediately closed the clinic for 48 hours for cleaning and swabbed all staff and sent them home to self-isolate pending confirmation of test results.
“We are now currently contacting all patients who presented at the clinic between 6 and 10 August to advise them of the situation and, on advice of the Ministry of Health, to get tested at a local community testing centre and to self-isolate until results of the tests known,” the statement said.
NZ Doctor said the patient was not one of the family of four who have been identified by the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield as having tested positive to Covid-19 in Auckland.
Bloomfield yesterday reported that there were also another four probable cases in Auckland.
“There are also an additional four probable cases who are people with symptoms linked to the four community-based cases we talked about last night and early this morning,” he said.
“All of these probable cases are awaiting test results.”
The Otahuhu case and the four probable cases demonstrate how likely it is that there are more cases in Auckland.
Therefore it would seem probable that the Level Three lockdown will continue beyond Friday as will the Level Two lockdown across the rest of New Zealand.
The Opposition, yesterday, asked the Government to account for this in two ways; by delaying polling day for the election and by consulting Opposition MPs on major Government moves.
National’s former deputy-leader, Paula Bennett, went further and suggested National MPs could join the Cabinet.
“In these times so close to an election the leader of the opposition and health spokesperson should be in cabinet decision meetings,” she tweeted.
There is a precedent for that in that two National MPs (and eventually a third) joined the War Cabinet of the Fraser Labour Government between 1940 and 45.
And Governments do consult Oppositions and even work with them on some matters.
But constitutional experts consulted by POLITIK say that there is only one Government. There is no constitutional obligation to consult.
However, National Leader Judith Collins argued that it was a convention that Oppositions were consulted on major decisions before an election.
“It is always part of our pre-election convention that a government does not make major decisions without full consultation with the opposition,” she said.
In January, the Cabinet Office published a circular outlining pre-election requirements for the Government.
The circular, Government Decisions and Actions in the Pre-election Period, said the Government continued to have full power to govern until the election.
“The caretaker convention does not apply in the pre-election period,” it said.
“However, successive governments have exercised restraint in the pre-election period in two main areas.
“These are when making significant appointments and when taking action that might result in government advertising campaigns being held during the pre-election period.
“On some occasions in the past, Ministers have sought advice about whether specific actions or decisions should be taken in the pre-election period.
“It is for the Prime Minister to make the final decision as to whether or not a decision or action (including a significant appointment) should proceed during the pre-election period.”
National is also calling for the election polling day to be delayed.
“It is simply unsustainable to expect there to be a fair and just election at a time when the opposition parties and other parties of government are not free to elect to campaign, but also when people have no certainty as to whether or not they’re going to be able to personally cast their vote on Election Day,” said Collins.
She said both she and the Prime Minister would meet the Electoral Commission today to discuss the matter.
The election date is a matter for the Prime Minister. She is required to advise the Governor-General who (nominally) calls the election.
However, Ardern has delayed the dissolution of Parliament until Monday, which means that legally there is no fixed date for the election at this stage.
All we have is the Prime Minister’s announcement of September 19.
A short delay should be possible but longer delays – say, next year could require legislation and that under the Constitution Act that would require a 75 per cent majority of Parliament.
National’s call has been partly driven by the advent of advance voting which had been due to open in just over three weeks.
Unless the date is changed, that would mean voters would start voting having seen virtually nothing of the campaigns of any of the political parties.
However National’s calls for a delay sound suspiciously political; driven by the need within the party to get their campaign together and to get past the internal turmoil that has distracted them for the last few weeks.
For Labour, the danger is that what is happening in Auckland could spread to other parts of the country.
A second nationwide lockdown would change the game completely.
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