Wellington, March 2, 2021
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged people to call out family and colleagues who are not following the rules of the Alert Levels.
She was speaking to the media yesterday (March 2, 2021) after a Cabinet meeting, joined by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
She said that she understands people that are frustrated about rule-breaches and changes in Alert Levels. She reiterated the various measures that the government has in place and asked people to follow the rules and reminded New Zealanders that we have had breaches before, and recovered from them.
“Quite simply, we cannot do this alone,” she said.
High compliance rates
Ms Ardern said that New Zealand’s experience has high rates of compliance.
“Rule breaking can prolong that plan; so, that is why I am asking everyone now more than ever to continue to back and support one another and if that means calling a family member or colleague out for not following the rules then we should do that. Do it with kindness, but do it,” she said.
Ms Ardern explained kindness as offering someone a mask on a bus if that person is not wearing one, but on a larger scale telling a family member who should be isolating, ‘do not go out,’ or saying to a colleague who turns up to work when they should be isolating or are waiting for a test result ‘go home’.”
She said it is not an instruction to go tell authorities about rule breaking, or for people to do something they are uncomfortable with, but to confront people directly.
“Go and talk to your friend or colleague if they are sick, tell them to go home… I think we should all encourage one another to follow the rules,” she said.
Ms Ardern said that there are support payments for those who are told to self-isolate.
“If you are told to self-isolate and you cannot work from home your employer or you – if you are self-employed – should be applying for the Covid leave scheme. No one should feel pressured to go to work if they are told to self-isolate,” she said.
Breaches ‘not tolerable’
Ms Ardern acknowledged public anger over the latest community cases after it emerged that there was contact between two families that was not disclosed to contact tracers prior to the earlier family going into quarantine.
Case N – the mother of a student, Case M, who both tested positive on Saturday (February 27, 2021) met with the mother of the second family identified in the February outbreak, who had been told to self-isolate as someone in the household was a close contact of the first Papatoetoe High School student.
Dr Bloomfield clarified that the two mothers of the family had gone for a walk together.
Ms Ardern said that the second family did not disclose the contact at earlier interviews, and what had happened is not tolerable.
“No one, in Cabinet, no Minister, no politician, none of us that I have spoken to think that this is tolerable. You know, what has happened here has been a clear breach and everyone is frustrated by it,” she said.
Lawmakers not law enforcers
She says it is not for politicians to decide whether to prosecute those who breached the rules around self-isolating, however.
“The distinction that we have clearly made is that politicians are not the ones that determine enforcement, and that is rightly so, but the provisions exist … so people are able to be (prosecuted). We rightly have the independence between politicians and the Police, and I need to maintain that, but no one is accepting that these breaches are okay. They were not, clearly everyone is paying the price,” Ms Ardern said.
She said that the rule-breakers are already facing the consequence of having the full judgment of the country.
Police would not be interviewed but in a written statement said that in cases where individuals have failed to comply with specific orders from health officials to self-isolate, they may investigate when referred relevant information by the Ministry of Health.
Focus on community partnership
“At this stage, we have not received referrals and we continue to focus on working with individuals, whanau and communities to support them to isolate and be tested. Police will continue to work with Public Health as we have to date, including to assist finding people who should be isolating and who prove difficult to find,” Police said.
Breaches of self-isolation rules have characterised the Auckland cluster, prompting calls for stricter measures to enforce self-isolation and protect the community.
-Published under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz