Resourcing the Long-Term Response
National would ensure the Border Protection Agency and the wider Government sector is resourced to manage the response in the longer term.
The pandemic has bought forth considerable innovation to improve testing and better manage COVID-19 and other pandemic threats. National recognises that in the medium term, technology is going to provide the capacity to better test and track, to manage the COVID-19 and other pandemic threats.
The response to COVID-19 and similar pandemic threats requires the Government to fund and invest in emerging medical technologies and practices as they become viable. The Agency would be expected to learn from and collaborate to ensure best practice protocols and technology are brought to or developed in New Zealand and shared.
The current Government’s response has been too slow. The Government’s COVID-19 contact tracing app was deployed after private sector alternatives were made available and take-up of the COVID-19 app has seen limited usage. Since the rollout of the app in May there has been less than two uses per New Zealander. That is not sufficient and more must be done.
Internationally, examples such as Australia show success in deploying a Bluetooth contact tracing app, which allows for easier and more effective contact tracing.
- Immediately invest and seek to rapidly deploy a Bluetooth application to enhance contact tracing capability.
- Explore alternative contact tracing technologies to add more tools to the contact tracing system (eg: COVID Card).
- Immediately provide additional resource to bolster the campaign to increase the use and take-up of the COVID-19 app and continue to update its functionality.
- Ensure the Government is working with private providers to ensure best practice in the way we are deploying contact tracing technology.
- Undertake risk-based assessments for requiring the use of certain contact-tracing technologies. For example, requiring border-facing workers to use COVID Cards or mandating the use of contact tracing technology for people arriving from certain high-risk countries in the future.
Surveillance and Monitoring
Continued monitoring and surveillance will be required to make sure the policies at the border are successful. A strong testing regime will provide confidence in the efforts at the border.
- Widen the availability of testing throughout the country, making sure there are readily deployable mobile testing stations in each main population centre as well as any population centre where there is a quarantine facility.
- Implement a target for test waiting times of no longer than 60 minutes for a test.
- Strive towards a ‘test on demand’ system where people seeking a test can and do receive one. A number of reports of individuals being told they do not require a test or waiting for more than five hours for a test is not optimal. National would scale up availability and processing so we have as widespread of a testing system as possible.
- Ensure regular wastewater testing for COVID-19 to monitor potential early outbreaks in the community. This would build on the testing already undertaken by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in April and operating in other countries such as the Netherlands.
- Ensure people in managed isolation and quarantine have a compulsory day three and day 12 COVID-19 test.
At-risk care contingency planning
Certain populations are more at risk of a COVID-19 outbreak than others and it is important a clear plan is developed to continue to keep these New Zealanders safe. Most obviously, those who live in retirement homes across the country require a plan in place so they are prioritised, even under Alert Level 1.
- Require regular testing of aged-care workers.
- Have regular opportunities for testing within retirement homes.
- Ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and appropriate hygiene protocols are in place.
- Coordinate with food providers and delivery agencies for an aged care response plan to cater to those who cannot simply rely on volunteers to deliver necessities to them in the event of an increases Alert Level.
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