Covid 19 coronavirus: Govt under pressure for ‘confusing’ messaging – Ardern pushes back

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The Government has come under pressure over the effectiveness of its messaging, as critics argue some of its communication has been too confusing for people to properly understand.

One parent told the Herald they were upset with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s criticism of rulebreakers, given their own poor experiences with the Ministry of Health.

“I feel pretty strongly that our politicians should try to set a better tone than one that gives permission for us all to air our anger,” the parent said.

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National and Act say Government’s messaging had not been good enough and there needed to be greater clarity – specifically when it comes to the distinction between casual and casual plus contacts.

Although Ardern said the Government was always working to improve its systems, she defended the Ministry of Health’s record yesterday – particularly around the KFC worker, who has called on Ardern for an apology.

There were no community cases yesterday. Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said this was “reassuring”.

“But clearly we are early on in this journey and not yet out of the woods.”

Although optimistic about there being no new community cases, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop said some elements of clarity wwere missing around the Government’s messaging.

“Rules and guidelines on casual, causal plus are confusing and a communications effort is needed to ensure people understand what they are.”

He said there was a degree of confusion on this front among many people – particularly young people.

Professor of Public Health Nick Wilson said overall, when compared to other countries, New Zealand’s messaging had been world-class.

But that did not mean it had always been perfect and recent examples showed that the messaging had been “possibly confusing” for some people.

Act leader David Seymour said Ardern had been too quick to criticise rulebreakers.

“The Prime Minister’s cynical attempts to whip up nationwide hysteria against a small group of people who have no platform to defend themselves, without accepting her Government’s failures, shows kindness, and the ‘team of 5 million’ has been a sham all along.”

On Monday, Ardern vented her frustration with lockdown and isolation rule breakers.

“It is not appropriate and it is not okay, for the members of a team of five million to let the rest of us down,” Ardern said.

But yesterday, she adjusted that message slightly.

“You know, one thing I’d say, you know, the team of 5 million, we have never been perfect.”

The parent of a child, who was a Kmart casual contact, told the Herald they were upset with Ardern’s messaging around some people letting the “team of five million down”.

The parent said they had been receiving daily calls from the Ministry of Health but the instructions had not always been clear.

Last Wednesday, they were told the child, who had a sore throat, should isolate for 14 days and get a test on day 5 and day 12.

The rest of the family were told to only self-monitor for any symptoms and did not need to isolate.

The child returned a negative test on Friday, on day five, and had been told another one was needed on day 12.

But her parents were told later on Friday that she needed a third test.

After her father queried that advice, he was told that his daughter would not actually need a third – only to have a health official call them later and say another test was, in fact, required as soon as possible.

In addition to this, the parents were told that the rest of the family had to self-isolate as well, given the fact the child had a sore throat.

On Monday, the KFC worker who Ardern said she was “frustrated” with for going to work, despite receiving health advice to stay at home, told Newshub this was not the advice she had received.

The worker, who had a sibling at Papatoetoe High School, said she had not received any information asking her to isolate.

Ardern, however, pushed back strongly on this.

She said there were roughly 15 emails, texts and phone calls to this person’s family relaying the health advice to stay home.

“I think the message was still very, very, very clear that we wanted all students to be tested as soon as possible,” Ardern told media yesterday.

“Ultimately, attempts were made over the better part of the week to make sure that happened.”

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