New Zealand needs National’s Covid plan at tipping point for Delta

New Zealand is at a tipping point in the fight against Delta and more than ever New Zealanders need and deserve strong and decisive leadership, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.

“New Zealand went all-in on the elimination strategy. It was effective in 2020 but Labour’s failure to plan for Delta meant it has failed in 2021 and it’s clear the Government doesn’t know what to do next.

“The daily 1pm press conferences have turned into a litany of bad news and there is no clear plan from the Government. The R-rate is now 1.3, meaning cases are continuing to spread and there have been 75 unlinked cases in the past two days.

“The Government has ruled out a return to a level 4 lockdown but it has so far refused to publish the health advice, despite repeated calls for them to do so. Independent public health experts are confused by the Government’s approach, and who can blame them.

“It’s clear now that the Government spent the first six months of this year in self-congratulation mode, happy to have the developed world’s slowest vaccine rollout and spending the Covid Response Fund not on contact tracing, saliva testing and boosting ICU treatment, but on art therapy and cameras on fishing boats.

“The Government worked on the assumption that elimination could continue indefinitely. This was always a risky strategy. There has been no back-up plan. They went all-in on the final hand of a poker game, hoping for a royal flush. The odds were against stacked against New Zealand and so it has proved.

“The key question confronting New Zealand is, where do we go from here? Unlike Labour, National has a plan that will work. We encourage the Government to adopt it.

“Unlike Labour, National has done the thinking about a vigorous suppression strategy, where we work to minimise the number of Covid cases in the community but accept they will be there. We call on the Government to urgently scale up saliva testing capability, order vaccine booster shots, roll out rapid antigen tests particularly to essential workers crossing alert level boundaries, and urgently implement National’s specialist healthcare workforce migration plan.

“Rather than vague aspirations about picnics, New Zealand needs a clearly defined pathway from here.

“When National released a plan to move from elimination to vigorous suppression at 85 percent full vaccinated, Labour Ministers declared it would mean ‘Covid for Christmas.’ Just two weeks later, it is clear Labour has lost control of Delta in Auckland and already moved to a vigorous suppression strategy. Again this shows a complete lack of planning or understanding of how Delta was spreading.”

In addition to National’s ‘Opening Up’ plan, Ms Collins suggests the following elements are immediately adopted:

1. Vaccination targets linked to regional restrictions

“Aucklanders have no idea when the nightmare of the level 3 lockdown might end. They deserve some sort of certainty, and some hope about what reaching various vaccination targets will bring. The Prime Minister needs to put aside her aversion to targets and go for one for Auckland, and outline what it will mean when we get there.

“Likewise, the rest of the country needs to know that when 85 per cent of a region is fully vaccinated, no more lockdowns will occur.”

2. Recognise that vaccinated people pose less risk

“The Government needs to move heaven and earth to roll out effective vaccine authentication as quickly as it can. Every week it fails to deliver this forces unneeded restrictions on fully vaccinated Kiwis.

“Vaccinated people pose far less risk of spreading Covid and, as it the situation in New South Wales is doing, they should be able to work, eat out and go to the gym all under Level 3. It makes no sense to keep the hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders who are now fully vaccinated at home.

“Likewise, the South Island remains at Level 2 despite having no Covid cases for nearly a year. There was some rationale for this when only around 20 per cent of South Islanders were fully vaccinated. But, two months on from the initial restrictions, many part of the South Island have high rates of vaccination that should allow for an easing of restrictions.”

3. Working with not against the private sector

“The Government has to reset its approach to dealing with ideas from outside the Ministry of Health. There has been a failure to take advantage of technologies such as rapid testing, saliva testing and private isolation arrangements.

“Once we hit 85% double vaccination, National’s plan would allow fully vaccinated travellers to come to New Zealand from low and medium-risk countries. We should be aiming for this by Christmas. National’s plan would end the lottery of human misery that is MIQ, boosting tourism and reuniting families.

“New Zealand can start to reopen to the world, end lockdowns and cope with Covid, but only if the Government starts showing decisive leadership. A good place would be to pick up National’s plan and start to implement it.”