Covid 19: Clarke Gayford and Jacinda Ardern close ranks on test controversy

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and fiancé Clarke Gayford are refusing to answer further questions about the extent to which Gayford tried to get Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) for his friends.

On Wednesday the Herald reported a pharmacist alleging Gayford had tried to help friends get an RAT via a phone call and being “very unimpressed” when he was told that the Health guidance was for a PCR test, rather than an RAT.

The friends were suspected close contacts of a Covid-19 case and current Ministry of Health guidelines say close contacts should get a nasal PCR test, not a rapid test.

The country was facing its first community case of the Omicron variant at the time.

In a Facebook post, the pharmacist alleged Gayford had said the Ministry of Health policy had changed and allowed close contacts to get an RAT.

Gayford admitted a friend had put him on speakerphone while in a pharmacy to discuss RATs, but did not give his version of the phone call. He apologised for any “confusion”.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister’s office refused to answer further questions about the extent to which this was a one-off occurrence, and whether it was appropriate for him to do so.

When other media approached the Prime Minister’s office about the story, the office refused to comment on the matter, but referred media to a statement issued by Gayford’s managers.

But on Thursday morning, Gayford’s managers were not issuing his statement – already published by the Herald – to other media, impeding their ability to cover the story.

In a news story, TVNZ’s 1News said it”approached Gayford’s management team for a response,” after being directed there by the Prime Minister’s office. However, Gayford’s management “refused to comment”.

Only in the afternoon were other media able to obtain the statement – after some had raised the issue with the Prime Minister’s office. Gayford’s management blamed the delay on holidays and staff needing to talk to senior management before sending the statement.

Gayford’s management refused to answer further questions about the incident.

When asked whether Gayford had made similar calls on any other occasion, his management said they would not be commenting further.

National’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said the behaviour showed a lack of transparency.

“This behaviour is not consistent with the idea that this would be the most transparent government in New Zealand history,” he said.

“The Prime Minister might not want to answer questions about this that does not mean it’s acceptable behaviour, he said.

Act leader David Seymour said he did not usually bring politicians’ partners into politics, but he commended Gayford for trying to get RATs, as widespread RAT use is Act policy.

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