Hipkins needs to explain Govt’s Covid complacency

Health Minister Chris Hipkins needs to explain why, just two weeks ago, he was comfortable with face masks not being compulsory for staff working in managed isolation, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

In a written response to questions from Dr Shane Reti, the Health Minister confirmed that, up until the latest outbreak of community transmission, face masks were optional for staff and officials working in communal areas of managed isolation facilities if physical distancing was possible.

The Minister defended this stance by saying face masks were most effective at preventing the wearer from spreading Covid-19, rather than acting as a shield from the virus.

“Therefore, as hotel staff are highly unlikely to have Covid-19 themselves, the greatest protection for staff is for returnees to wear face masks,” the minister said.

Dr Reti says the Health Minister’s complacent attitude puts us all at risk.

“His change of heart on Wednesday, when masks were made compulsory for all staff, was a smart move that was far too slow in coming, especially when I highlighted the issue weeks earlier.

“The Health Minister’s lenient attitude to this is, unfortunately, symptomatic of the Government’s complacency when it comes to stopping Covid-19 at our border.

Since admitting the level of Covid-19 testing for staff that we were led to believe was happening at quarantine centres was, in fact, not happening, the Minister has also failed to answer in multiple media interviews why weekly testing was not compulsory from the start, Dr Reti says.

“New Zealanders sacrificed their jobs, the businesses and their livelihoods during the first lockdown to buy the Government enough time to get systems in place to keep us all safe.

“They deserve a straight answer from the Government as to why it didn’t hold up its end of the deal.”

“National will continue to work with the Government to lift our collective security as we have done in the weeks leading up to the current outbreak.”

You can read the Health Minister's response to the written question here