Covid 19 coronavirus: Ardern and Hipkins to face barrage of Covid questions in Parliament

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says was only informed about new Covid community cases about 90 minutes before the public was told.

The Government’s key Covid-19 Response Ministers are being peppered with questions from the Opposition in a socially distanced and level 2 appropriate Parliament this afternoon.

Both Act and National arechallengingArdern on a number of Covid response related issues.

And Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will also receive his fair share of questions in the House this afternoon.

Speaking in reply to National leader Judith Collins, Jacinda Ardern said she stood by her Government’s actions relating to the latest Covid-19 community outbreak.

She pointed out that New Zealanders have enjoyed more freedoms than anywhere else in the world.

And to keep this being the case, she said officials are looking to tighten up processes as much as possible.

When pressed on the community case timeframe, Ardern she first learned about the new community cases between 11am and midday on Sunday.

That information was revealed to the public at 1.30pm.

“We gave ourselves quite a short time frame,” she said.

A decision to change alert level decisions was announced at 7pm that night.

But she said there were a few hours in between when neither she, nor her officials, had a clear idea as to what was the best approach.

On the issue of saliva testing, Ardern said that was not as accurate as the normal testing swabs.

But at the moment, they are done alongside the normal testing regime.

It is, however, voluntary.

Ardern clashed with National’s Chris Bishop, who was heckling her as she spoke.

Collins’ question was asking Ardern if she stands behind all her “statements and actions” related to Covid-19.

Asking a minister if they stand by their statements and actions is a common tactic in the House.

As it’s the primary question, it has to be submitted in writing for a minister to prepare for.

But the subsequent supplementary questions are unknown to the minister asking them, which means the Opposition gets to ambush the minister with curly questions they might not have prepared for.

It is likely, however, that given it has been her topic of contention over the last 24 hours she will be asking about saliva testing.

Both the Green Party and Act have questions for Ardern and Hipkins as well.

The MPs will be slogging it out in a socially distanced chamber this afternoon.

Yesterday, Speaker Trevor Mallard re-implemented the alert level 2 rules for MPs in the House.

“Physical distancing in the Chamber will be required and so the number of members in the House will be reduced,” Mallard said.

He also said that numbers for each party would be allocated in proportion to their caucus size.

To make up for this, Mallard said there would be an unlimited number of proxies will be available so members will not be required to travel to Wellington.

A proxy question is one asked on behalf of an MP who cannot make it to the debating chamber.

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