‘Nonsense’ Ardern virus theory slammed
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has slammed suggestions she knew about her country's new coronavirus cases well before she announced them.
Ms Ardern was again forced to address the rumours after the opposition held a press conference further fuelling the idea her government kept community transmission a secret.
National's deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said he thought it was "interesting" New Zealanders were warned there could be another COVID-19 outbreak about 10 days ago and told to stock-up on masks.
He said he saw one interview where Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield took things further and suggested people should wear masks just to get used to the idea of wearing them.
"And then you had the Prime Minister's visit to the mask factory (on Tuesday) along with Dr Bloomfield, after 102 days of no community transmission having a test himself, all very interesting things to have happened a matter of hours before a large residential area of New Zealand went into level three lockdown," he said.
Asked what he was saying with those statements, Mr Brownlee said: "I'm just outlining facts. It's an interesting series of facts", before opposition leader Judith Collins said journalists should ask their own questions.
Ms Ardern held a late press conference with Dr Bloomfield last night announcing four cases of coronavirus in a family cluster with no known source.
Ms Arden said Mr Brownlee's implication the government was holding back information was "just nonsense".
"The idea that we would keep information back from the public when that is critical to us being able to look after their health and therefore their financial wellbeing and their jobs ... is just nonsense," she said.
"There is no reason why we would ever do that. I hope that from the timeline we have set out, we have been very, very quick - including informing the public.
"I do worry that those kinds of theories do nothing to support what needs to be collective action from all of us."
She said the opposition should put their energy into supporting the country's response to the resurgence of the virus.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters also took aim at Ms Collins for blaming the government for the new cases.
"That's haphazard and careless and irresponsible and not befitting of someone with legal training and some experience in the law," he said.
"You get the facts right before you make claims like that."
Ms Collins claimed she was not given a full briefing on the situation.
Ms Ardern said she found out about the confirmed case about 4pm after a public event at the mask factory.
She met with government officials about 7pm then consulted the Ministers with Power to Act - a small group including the Health Minister, Finance Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.
She then briefed Ms Collins and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff before holding the 9.15pm press conference.
Dr Bloomfield said he was first told about 2.40pm via a text from the head of the Counties Manukau District Health Board.
"We needed to have a certain amount of information to be able to inform what are quite significant decisions in moving Auckland to level 3 restrictions, and the rest of the country to level 2," he said in a press conference today.
Ms Ardern said there were no delays in taking action.
Originally published as 'Nonsense' Ardern virus theory slammed