Hipkins’ comments staggeringly naïve

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins’ comments that ‘there’s no major downside’ to New Zealand’s slow vaccine roll out are staggeringly naïve, National’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“There are two ‘major downsides’ to being the slowest in the developed world to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The first is that we are incredibly vulnerable to the highly transmissible Delta variant, which public health experts agree poses a real risk to New Zealand.

“Delta has already caused more lockdowns in Australia and while New Zealand has a largely unvaccinated population, we are sitting ducks.

“Answers to written questions show 14 people with the Delta variant of COVID-19 turned up in MIQ in April and May alone and it was recently confirmed that the Australian traveller with COVID-19 who spent the weekend in Wellington had the Delta variant.

“The best protection against Delta is to roll out the vaccine as quickly as possible.

“Chris Hipkins talks of the ‘good situation we’re in at the moment’ but that good situation won’t last long if Delta escapes MIQ and there is community transmission.

“The other major downside to being the slowest in the developed world to vaccinate is that any decisions around when we can open up to the world are delayed. New Zealand can only start this process once a significant proportion of our population is vaccinated.

“Our prosperity as a country is heavily reliant on our international connections, tourism and trade.

“New Zealand can’t remain a fortress forever but the longer we take to vaccinate, the longer we will be shut off from the rest of the world. At the same time the world is racing ahead of us.

“We were told New Zealand would be at the front of the queue for the COVID-19 vaccine. In reality we are the slowest in the developed world and despite what Minister Hipkins says about there being no downside, there is.”