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By RNZ News

New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the actions of the Destiny Church leaders in leaving Auckland on the eve of the alert level 3 lockdown were “completely irresponsible”.

Earlier today it was revealed that church leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki left Auckland on Saturday night, arriving around midnight in Rotorua, where they told a crowd gathered for the Sunday morning service they had “escaped” to avoid the level 3 lockdown.

It comes as concern mounts over some churches defying lockdown rules and spreading misinformation about the covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Hannah Tamaki posted on Facebook to say the couple were now touring the country and would be in Invercargill this weekend.

In this afternoon’s daily update, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Tamakis’ actions were “completely irresponsible”.

He said he encouraged everybody to exercise their own judgment.

“Sneaking out of Auckland right at the beginning of a lockdown and having large gatherings of people is simply putting people at risk unnecessarily.”

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said any breaches of the current health order which underpinned alert levels were a wider government responsibility.

The Destiny Church is a Pentecostal fundamentalist Christian movement founded in 1998 by the Tamakis, who continue to serve as visionary and senior ministers. It is based in South Auckland and has a strong Māori and Polynesian membership.

No new community covid cases
RNZ News reports that despite more than 16,000 tests being processed yesterday, no new cases of covid-19 have been found in the community.

Dr Bloomfield said two new cases were found in managed isolation and quarantine, and one of those was a historical case.

Dr Bloomfield had said yesterday that any positive cases that may have resulted from potential exposure to the virus in Auckland last week would start to turn up today.

Hipkins said tests were still coming in, however, and “we’re still in the critical period … we’re not quite there yet” in terms of being certain the latest cluster had not spread further.

As of midnight last night, 9431 people have received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, including over half of New Zealand’s covid-19 frontline border workers, Hipkins said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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