Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is “incredibly angry” that a wrong message was posted by the Government’s Covid-response unit, saying all south and west Aucklanders should be tested, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
She said the message was “wrong” on the topline of a Facebook post on Saturday – and people did not have to be tested if they were asymptomatic.
The message has led to confusion for many residents. There are about 700,000 people in south and west Auckland and there have been some long queues at testing stations today.
The post was still present on Intsagram at 1.26pm today – and reportedly on the Ministry of Health website – despite the Prime Minister saying she had met officials this morning to outline her frustration and to fix the message.
The topline message was an “oversimplification”, she said, and she was “incredibly angry” about it.
She said there was an attempt to keep a message simple, but it had been done “badly”.
“We are not asking every single person in West and South Auckland to get a test.”
Told the message was still present on Instagram at 1.26pm today, Ardern said: “That’s something I will have to put to them, they were advised some hours ago.”
She said there was only so much she could do, and as soon as she was “released” from the media conference podium, she could check back.
The “important message” was posted on the Government’s Unite Against Covid-19 Facebook page about 5pm on Saturday. It was titled: “If you’re in South or West Auckland, please have a test”.
“If you’re in South or West Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get Covid-19, even if you don’t have symptoms, please have a test,” it said in the post.
For people outside South and West Auckland, it was still recommended that they only get tested if they “develop symptoms consistent with Covid-19.
The combined population of West and South Auckland is about 700,000 and the wrong advice for those regions led to some perplexion.
“I’m so confused?!” said one commenter. “Why would someone get a test if they have no symptoms!? Two weeks ago we were all told to not get a test if you do not have symptoms! Honestly this is an absolute joke.”
Another replied: “It gets updated according to new tests and data given to the Ministry of Health on a regular basis. Having a test is just to keep this virus at bay and put a lid on it and keep it under control. People could have it and show no symptoms due to having a strong immune system.”
“Widespread testing remains a critical part of eliminating Covid-19 in our communities,” said an administrator on the Unite Against Covid-19 website.
The message on the Government Facebook page came as the Auckland region gets set to come out of level 3 lockdown at 11.59pm tonight.
There are two new cases of Covid-19 today, both linked to the Auckland cluster.
Yesterday there were 13 cases – 11 of them in the community.
Ten are clearly epidemiologically linked to the Auckland cluster, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Saturday.
It means there are now 133 cases linked to Auckland cluster and 18 to Mt Roskill “mini-cluster”. New Zealand’s previous biggest cluster, a Bluff wedding, stood at 98.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson made a extra push on Friday, asking as many people as possible to get a test if they had any cold or flu like symptoms.
“Or if you are in any way connected to the Mount Roskill Evangelical Church or Mount Albert Grammar School we need you to get tested today or this weekend,” Robertson said.
On Friday, laboratories processed 9991 tests as the Government works to test 70,000 people over a week at a rate of 10,000 a day.
• The full, up-to-date list of testing sites in Auckland is at www.arphs.health.nz/covid19test
• If you have any Covid-19 symptoms you can call Healthline (0800 358 5453) to discuss the steps to getting tested.