Labour has no plan for Omicron

The Government’s lack of preparation for Omicron has unnecessarily put New Zealand in a worse position than we needed to be, National Leader Christopher Luxon says.

“Rather than spending the last month urgently boosting as many people as possible, rolling out vaccinations for 5–11 year olds and buying stocks of rapid tests, the Government went into ‘go slow’ mode over summer.

“For much of 2021, New Zealand had the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world. Now Omicron is here, and we are the fourth slowest in the developed world for boosters.

“This is a stunning indictment on the Government’s lack of planning and lack of urgency.

“The Government still seems stuck in a Delta mind-set. Contact tracing under Omicron will be overwhelmed within days. So will our traditional nasal PCR tests, yet the Government simply hasn’t got ready for rapid testing.

“Until recently, rapid antigen tests were illegal and they are still extremely hard to come by now. New Zealand companies are waiting weeks for permission to import them while in other countries like Australia, you can walk into the supermarket and buy one off the shelf.

“Once again, there was no mention of saliva testing. The evidence suggests saliva testing detects Omicron earlier than nasal testing does, but the Government continues to be locked in a nasty spat with Rako Science and therefore they are still not utilising all available testing resource in the country.

“There are urgent steps we need to take.

“We need to protect the vulnerable. We should inundate rest homes, retirement villages and at-risk communities with boosters.

“And we need to get defences and mitigations in place. We should vastly increase the availability of rapid tests, urgently upgrade ICU capacity, and ensure we have stocks of the treatments we need.

“The Government can’t afford to rest on their laurels any longer; they must implement a proper plan for Omicron and deliver on it.”