A furious Jacinda Ardern has apologised after a social media blunder meant 750,000 New Zealanders were wrongly told to get coronavirus tests even if they did not have any symptoms.
The misleading message came in the hours before Auckland entered a ‘level 2.5 lockdown’ from Monday – with masks still compulsory on public transport for those older than 12-years-old and social gatherings limited to 10 people.
There are now 135 cases linked to a cluster of cases in the city.
Posted on the government’s COVID-19-response unit page on Saturday about 5pm, the alert told all Aucklanders in the city’s south and west to get tested.
The post was titled: ‘If you’re in South or West Auckland, please have a test’ and led to long queues forming at testing centres across the country’s largest city.
The New Zealand prime minister said there was ‘no excuse’ for the oversight and government staff had over-simplified the post.
Scroll down for video
A nurse at a Otara Town Centre COVID-19 testing centre in Auckland tests a member of the public for the virus on August 26. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has apologised after a government mistake meant 750,000 New Zealanders were wrongly told to get coronavirus tests
‘If we wanted over 700,000 people to get a test we wouldn’t just leave it to an Instagram or Twitter post,’ she told Newstalk ZB.
‘That would be something we would be sharing openly from the podium.
‘It caused anxiety for people and for that I apologise. No wants to see people afraid. No one wanted to see people unnecessarily lining up.
‘It was a mistake, I fully acknowledge that.’
Ms Ardern said she found out about the mistake on Sunday morning and asked those responsible to remove it, but the post was still visible on Instagram during her press conference at 1pm that day.
She said she was ‘angry, frustrated… and a range of emotions’ after discovering what had happened.
Ms Ardern holds a 3D model of a COVID-19 cell during a tour of a research facility in Porirua, north of Wellington on August 20. All Aucklanders in the city’s south and west were told to get tested even if they did not have any coronavirus symptoms
AUCKLAND’S ‘LEVEL 2.5’ LOCKDOWN
Mask use is mandatory on public transport for commuters aged 12 and above in Auckland.
Auckland residents are highly encouraged to wear a mask in other public settings.
Social gatherings will remain limited to 10 people, despite Stage Two lockdown in the rest of the nation allowing gatherings of up to 100.
Authorised funerals will be allowed up to 50 attendees
The New Zealand prime minister is pictured on Monday during a visit to a Kainga Ora housing development in Auckland. She said there was ‘no excuse’ for the government’s social media oversight
Auckland’s tough Stage Three lockdown came to an end on Sunday night after several extensions, but the New Zealand leader said life won’t yet return to a pre-COVID normal.
From 11.59pm on Sunday, restrictions in New Zealand’s most populous city were eased after two-and-a-half weeks to a Stage Two warning, like the rest of the nation.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement on Sunday afternoon as she confirmed a further two coronavirus cases linked to the Auckland cluster.
But the eased restrictions won’t look exactly the same as they do for the rest of the nation.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demonstrates how she makes an improvised face mask during a video meeting with local community health leaders
A further two COVID-19 cases were identified in New Zealand on Sunday, both linked to the Auckland cluster
Ms Ardern wears a mask during a visit to the Kainga Ora housing development on Monday
Aucklanders will be subject to temporary ‘Stage 2.5’ restrictions, officials said.
Authorities will continue to stress the importance of wearing face masks where possible – without making them mandatory – and discourage non-essential public gatherings.
‘No gathering can be larger than 10. I cannot stress how important this is. Much of this cluster has stemmed from social gatherings. If we want to stop the spread, we have to stop socialising for a time,’ Ms Ardern said on Sunday.
People work at a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in Brisbane as the Sunshine State battles a new outbreak, similar to New Zealand
Staff at Honey Bones cafe in Grey Lynn serve takeaway customers at level three lockdown
CORONAVIRUS IN NEW ZEALAND: A TIMELINE
FEBRUARY 3: New Zealand bans travellers from China amid coronavirus outbreak.
FEBRUARY 28: New Zealand records its first COVID-19 infection after a person in their 60s returned from Iran.
MARCH 16: All return travellers must self-isolate for 14 days.
MARCH 20: Borders close to everyone except citizens, permanent residents and their families.
MARCH 26: Alert Level 4 ‘Eliminate’ begins. Residents are required to stay at home.
APRIL 28: New Zealand drops to Alert Level 3.
MAY 14: Alert Level 2 begins.
JUNE 9: New Zealand drops down to Alert Level 1. Residents encouraged to take precautions.
AUGUST 9: 100 days without community transmission of coronavirus.
AUGUST 11: New Zealand records its first community transmission in 102 days.
AUGUST 12: Auckland enters Alert Level 3 lockdown. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2.
AUGUST 31: Auckland drops to restrictions Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls a ‘level 2.5’ lockdown
Authorised funerals will be granted exemptions to host up to 50 people.
‘We are also keeping aged care facilities in Auckland on very strict settings. To those this affects, I am sorry. I know how hard this will be but we need to keep everyone in our aged care facilities safe,’ Ms Ardern added.
The restrictions remain in place throughout Auckland, but the prime minister has urged anybody from the region who is travelling to exercise caution and ‘common sense’.
‘If you are an Aucklander, please don’t just pop into an aged care facility no matter where it is in the country,’ she said.
A person waits for a bus at a Karangahape Rd bus stop in Auckland after Ms Ardern made face coverings mandatory on public transport
A nurse checks on people as the arrive at the Mangere Town Centre testing clinic
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday Auckland would enter a ‘level 2.5’ lockdown to ease out of Stage Three
A worker hands out information to people entering the Otara Town Centre COVID-19 Community testing centre
Ms Ardern visited a medical research clinic after allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding to the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund
‘Please don’t attend a mass gathering, even if it is not in Auckland. And if you are sick, please stay home. Definitely don’t travel.’
Ms Ardern told the public she highly doubted the virus had spread into other cities.
‘We are still dealing with a single source, and a single cluster,’ she said.
But the PM, who has acted swiftly at every stage of the pandemic, insisted she wouldn’t hesitate in locking down the community again if she considered it necessary.
‘We need the team of five million to help us get back where we need to be. Our system is only as good as our people,’ Ms Ardern said.