New case note—information about COVID-19 clusters
The Chief Ombudsman has published a case note on a complaint about a request for information about the names of COVID-19 clusters linked to cases in the Bay of Plenty District.
The information had been obtained through contact tracing, and was subject to a confidentiality requirement under the Health Act 1956. The Chief Ombudsman concluded that the request could be refused because release would be contrary to the Health Act.
While the relevant officials had a discretion to release information obtained through contract tracing, it was not unreasonable for them to have declined to exercise that discretion in this case.
The Chief Ombudsman recognised that a careful balance has to be struck between releasing enough information for the public to take steps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, and releasing so much information that people become reluctant to help contact tracers.
The Chief Ombudsman gave weight to the professional judgement of the officials—which drew on many years of experience in the field of infectious diseases and how they are effectively managed—that releasing the information at issue was not necessary for the effective management of the outbreak.
Read the full case note here.