The National Party is calling on the Government to require all people arriving in New Zealand to undergo at least 14 days of mandatory quarantine, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“A large number of diagnosed Covid-19 cases in New Zealand have come in from overseas. For the lockdown to have been worthwhile we need ensure those coming into New Zealand are quarantining properly.
“Experts and clinicians across the country have been calling for this for weeks. National has echoed those calls.
“The feedback from the public has been overwhelmingly in favour of this. It’s time the Government listened to the experts and all New Zealanders about this issue.
“All arriving passengers should be housed at an appropriate facility, tested for the virus and monitored there for 14 days after arrival, or longer if they are still experiencing symptoms.
“We’ve heard too many examples of people who are meant to be self-isolating not following the rules.
“Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield conceded at the Epidemic Response Committee that someone could land in New Zealand and be at the supermarket later that day.
“We view this as an urgent matter, so the petition will be open for just 24 hours before we present it to the Government.
“New Zealanders are sacrificing a lot for this lockdown. Fathers have missed the births of their babies, funerals to farewell loved ones haven’t gone ahead and livelihoods have been destroyed. For this to have been worthwhile we need to ensure the virus has no further chance of spreading.”
Notes to editors: A link to National’s petition can be found here: https://www.national.org.nz/mandatory_quarantining_at_border
The Epidemic Response Committee will reconvene this week to further examine the health and economic response to Covid-19 being taken by the Government, Leader of the Opposition and Committee Chair Simon Bridges says.
“Scrutiny of the Government’s response is crucial to ensuring New Zealand is responding to this crisis as best we can. Last week the committee pushed the Government to ensure more testing was being carried out and to clarifying whether police had the right powers.
“This week I will question whether we should have proper quarantining at the border. A large number of cases are coming in from overseas and National will continue to push for strict quarantine measures to be put in place.
“Tomorrow we will again be joined by Sir David Skegg, a professor from Otago University. He gave valuable insights last week into the health response. We will also question Health Minister David Clark and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
“On Wednesday we will have an economic focus. Former Chief Executive of BusinessNZ Phil O’Reilly will be our independent expert and we will question a range of leaders from industries including ports, tourism and agriculture.
“On Thursday we will examine the response from the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Education.
“The Epidemic Response Committee will continue to ask the questions that New Zealanders want answered so we can ensure the highest standards of health care and a fast economic recovery from this crisis.”
A draft agenda for the Epidemic Response Committee can be found here
The Government needs to ensure the international flights being chartered for stranded tourists are returning home with New Zealanders who are currently stuck overseas, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“With no apparent plans to repatriate the hundreds of Kiwis who are currently stranded around the world, this is an opportunity for the Government to pick up as many people as possible from the countries these chartered flights will be visiting.
“These chartered flights are a lifeline for the many tourists currently stuck in New Zealand with no way of getting home.
“It should be a no brainer that we fill up returning flights with Kiwis who are also stuck overseas and desperate to get home.
“National urges the Government to make this a priority as these flights start to take tourists home.”
Today’s meeting of the Epidemic Response Committee has shown how disconnected the three key agencies, Health, Customs and Police, are in enforcing the self-isolation of New Zealanders and shows why a quarantine is needed immediately, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“The Director-General of Health has been clear that all returning New Zealanders should be visited by a Police Officer within the first three days of them returning home.
“Today outgoing Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted while they would like to visit all returning New Zealanders, they’ve failed to do so, confirming officers have been unable to visit all of the more than 4000 people who’ve come back to New Zealand within three days.
“Following that admission, Customs Minister Jenny Salesa was asked about how Customs saw self-isolation being enforced, and she said Police were not expected to check up on all returning New Zealanders, instead they could do spot checks. That isn’t good enough.
“There shouldn’t be this much confusion. These agencies need to be a cohesive team. Instead New Zealanders are just seeing more and more mixed messages.
“It is clear from today’s questioning that New Zealand needs an enforced quarantine for those entering New Zealand at the border. For weeks our borders have been porous, with no thermal testing being undertaken and the self-isolation of New Zealanders not being policed well enough. That has to stop.
“Effective quarantining has been the foundation of other countries’ successful responses. Here in New Zealand we’ve been waving people through and trusting them to self-isolate.
“Today’s questioning has raised serious concerns about how well this lockdown is being policed and shows exactly why we need to be quarantining at the border. New Zealanders are sacrificing a lot right now, the key agencies involved in the response need to ensure they aren’t leaving the barn door wide open.”
The first meeting of the Epidemic Response Committee has raised some important concerns with New Zealand’s health response to Covid-19, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“We need clarity of purpose in our response and should have the clear objective of eliminating the virus.
“It was reassuring to see Sir David Skegg support calls for a wider testing and contact-tracing regime and quarantining of everyone arriving into New Zealand at the border.
“The Prime Minister has now agreed that more testing is needed following the committee and I look forward to seeing an increase in the number of tests being conducted as a result. National has been calling for this for two weeks now.
“The lockdown has been an important step and needs to continue to limit the spread, but Sir David Skegg described it as similar to ‘pressing the pause button’ on the virus and more measures will be needed to eliminate Covid-19 from New Zealand.
“For weeks it has been too hard to get tested. There are many probable cases who have not been able to get tested because they weren’t overseas recently or don’t have a clear overseas link. The criteria needs to be clear and broad and clinicians need the resources to conduct the tests.
“Australia and Singapore are putting everyone arriving from overseas into quarantine. This is a measure New Zealand should be taking to ensure people potentially incubating the virus are not spreading it in to our communities.
“The scrutiny provided by the Epidemic Response Committee will help us make our national response a stronger one. I look forward to continue working with the Committee to analyse our approach as a country.”
The Government must defer the minimum wage increase set to come in to force tomorrow, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“With the entire country under lockdown, businesses up and down the country are already facing huge financial struggles.
“Going ahead with the minimum wage increase during this crisis is irresponsible.
“Increasing the minimum wage will add substantial costs at a time where almost every industry in New Zealand is feeling the pain of the coronavirus outbreak and this additional cost will hit them hard.
“We are urging the Government to defer the increase for six months while we reassess its affordability during this unprecedented economic situation.
“The Government’s argument that increasing the minimum wage will stimulate the economy is flawed. It is counterproductive to try and stimulate the economy while the vast majority of businesses are closed and people are stuck in their homes.
“The absolute focus right now should be to keep businesses in business and New Zealanders in jobs. Increasing the minimum wage makes both of these priorities more difficult.
“It would make more sense to defer the increase and reassess it in six months’ time.
“The minimum wage has increased 12 per cent since 2017, and the 1 April 2020 increase would take it to a 20 per cent increase in three years.
“Everyone wants to see higher incomes, but governments need to be responsive to the realities on the ground. Many businesses are struggling to stay afloat and keep employing workers right now. Adding more costs is not the solution.”
National will be taking a constructive and principled approach to scrutinising the Government’s response to Covid-19 through the Epidemic Response Committee, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“It’s important there is strong scrutiny of our nation’s response to this pandemic as it will affect future generations, both in terms of lives but also in terms of the billions of dollars being spent.
“I see our role as asking the questions that New Zealanders want answered. I’ve been flooded with correspondence from New Zealanders who want answers on a wide variety of topics related to the response.
“Over the first couple of days we will be looking particularly into our health response with the Minister of Health and Director-General of Health both appearing in front of the Committee. And then our economic response with the Minister of Finance and Secretary of the Treasury also coming in.
“We will also be questioning the Government in regards to the response from Police, Civil Defence and Customs.
“We are dealing with, and making decisions, that will affect generations. The constructive scrutiny provided by this Committee will make our country’s response to Covid-19 a better and a stronger one.”
The committee will be livestreamed on the Epidemic Response Committee’s dedicated page on the Parliament website at the below link;
It will also be streamed on the Parliament Facebook page at the below link;
We are in tough times as coronavirus sweeps our globe, taking people's lives and closing economies as it goes.
The response around the world has varied. Some nations have been more effective than others. Our country, Aotearoa New Zealand, has not been immune. We've seen case numbers surge as the virus spreads and we test more.
Today we could look backward at what has been done well, and perhaps not so well, but it is not a time for that. We are where we are and we're all in this together.
Today, on the big questions in this House and in New Zealand, we agree. There is no National or Labour or Green or ACT or New Zealand First; just New Zealanders.
We should be going to Level 4 lockdown this evening. We are putting in all the economic resources and investments required to defeat this common enemy.
None of us can, of course, see the future. It's possible, but not likely, that we come through this somewhat quickly. Some will say, ‘well, shutdown – it was an over-reaction’. I'd prefer that was the case because it means people did not die needlessly.
But if the models and the charts and the workings that I have seen, and that Jacinda Ardern has seen, and that this House is seeing are right, or even half right, and if we follow the international examples to date, broadly speaking, Level 4 and shutting down is clearly right.
In relation to the Government's investments; we saved for a rainy day as a country and now that day has come. Our aim must be to keep businesses in business and workers in jobs so we can come out of the tunnel and into the sunlight again, sooner and stronger.
Last week we stood here and said, ‘lift the cap on job support’. To its credit, the Government has. We called for bank guarantees and they are now being put in place. I acknowledge the difficulty of being a finance minister today anywhere in the world, including in this little country, Mr. Robertson.
Now we must ensure that on the things we agree on, we are all working together to ensure their effective practical implementation today, tomorrow, and in the coming days and weeks.
In health, that involves us gearing up with urgency the masks, the ventilators, the hospital beds, the staff, the relief staff, the testing, and the tracing as they will all be required.
Economically, we must ensure that what we intend, what Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern and the Government intend, hits the mark.
We entirely support the intentions of the job support programme. We have questions about how to ensure the support gets to where it should. For example, my colleague Paul Goldsmith and I were talking yesterday and this morning about Germany where they have an interesting model for paying for reductions in work from employers so that workers are kept in their normal pay.
But, Mr Speaker, fundamentally we stand with the Government on all of this as New Zealanders.
This virus is of none of our making, but it will affect for at least a generation the health and wealth of us as a people.
We are all in this together, united against COVID-19.
We all have a month, dare I say it, at least a month, to self-isolate, to show social distance, to do or actually, probably more accurately, not to do what needs to be done.
This doesn't mean that National will always agree with our colleagues opposite, but it does mean that as this Parliament ceases to sit for at least a month we will join with the Government in seeking to constantly improve our nation's response for the common good of our people.
Our Members of Parliament – and I say this with just a dozen or so National MPs here in this House but 55 here in spirit here today – will be the eyes and the ears and the advocates for our communities.
In that regard I want to acknowledge our electorate agents. In my case, Marie and Sonia back in Tauranga who are working from home incredibly hard on all of the multiple issues that this virus has brought upon my local community.
Immigrant cases, those stuck offshore, those in Picton wanting to get home, and businesses and workers in need of financial support – I want to thank them. Use us, as Members of Parliament, as we can help a lot in the shared effort for our country.
I want to thank our supermarket workers, our petrol station attendants, our IT professionals, our essential infrastructure and health workers all over this nation, our police and defence and other first responders, plus many, many more keeping New Zealand going. You are heroes.
I also want to thank all New Zealanders for following instructions as we head into lockdown tonight.
The Prime Minister has put some of this very well. I'm confident we can show our best nature as Kiwis, following the rules and showing small acts of kindness, through to those of us of faith, praying for our communities and our nation at this tough time.
He waka eke noa – the canoe which we are all in without exception. We are all in this together.
National supports the Government’s decision to move the country towards Level 4 of the Covid-19 alert system over the next 48 hours and to extend the economic package for all businesses, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“This is an unprecedented situation and we support any measures that will protect the health and safety of New Zealanders.
“I understand that this will be a worrying and stressful time for New Zealanders. I encourage everyone to stay calm and follow the rules that are now in place.
“We will work in a supportive and constructive way with the Government in the interests of bringing New Zealand through this crisis together.
“I have offered the Government the services of our MPs and staff to assist where we can.
“We are pleased to see the cap lifted for all businesses to receive support. This is the right thing to do.
“We want to do all we can to protect the health of New Zealanders and ultimately our economy and livelihoods.
“The Opposition will continue to play an important role to ensure the best decisions are being made in the interests of all New Zealanders.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has asked all MPs and candidates to put campaigning on hold.
“This morning I have asked all of our MPs to suspend any form of campaigning.
“Our MPs and candidates will still be in their communities offering help and advice to their constituents, giving out important information and advocating for them.
“I have offered the Prime Minister my full support during this crisis, providing they move expeditiously enough. We will work in a supportive and constructive way in the interests of New Zealanders.
“I have also offered the Government the services of our MPs and staff to assist where we can.
“We want to do all we can to protect the lives and livelihoods of New Zealanders.
“In the past 24 hours I have been inundated with calls from doctors, health professionals, scientists and teachers all wanting the level to be raised.
“I believe the country needs to move to Level 4 on the Covid-19 alert system and I have expressed this to Jacinda Ardern.
“We won’t regret moving quickly to stop this virus spreading. We may have regrets if we don’t.
“We will support the Government where we can. But we won’t always agree and we will continue to let the Government know when we don’t.
“The Opposition will continue to play an important role to ensure the best decisions are being made in the interests of all New Zealanders. We won’t be campaigning for the foreseeable future, however.”