Where is the ‘smart border’ we were promised?

National is urging the Government to adopt five simple steps for strengthening the border, in light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases arriving on our shores, National’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

National’s five steps for strengthening the border are:

  1. Introduce rapid antigen testing – nasal swab tests that return results in 15 minutes – for everyone getting off international flights

  2. Vaccinate every border worker, and if they refuse then remove them from the frontline

  3. Conduct daily saliva testing of every person who works in an MIQ facility

  4. Start separating returnees from higher-risk countries and lower-risk countries into their own dedicated MIQ facilities

  5. Investigate construction of a purpose-built COVID-19 quarantine facility on the outskirts of Auckland

“National has been saying, since January, that if you arrive in New Zealand from a higher-risk destination then you should go into a high-risk hotel,” Mr Bishop says.

“People from higher-risk destinations, like India, should not be mixing and mingling in MIQ with passengers from the Pacific Islands, for example.”

National appreciates our New Zealand-Indian community and places a huge value on everything they contribute to our country both economically and socially, Mr Bishop says.

“The people arriving from India with COVID-19 didn’t want to catch this virus or pass it on to others. We would hate to see a situation where Kiwis are torn apart from family in India for long periods of time because our Government can’t get its border defences right.”

Mr Bishop says it’s time for the Government to introduce rapid antigen testing for all people getting off international flights in New Zealand.

“You have the results in as little as 15 minutes and if anyone tests positive then they are immediately moved to quarantine and have their results confirmed by a standard PCR test.

“Day zero and day one tests are a critical part of our border defences but returnees can be in an MIQ facility for up to 24 hours waiting for the results, potentially spreading Covid-19 if they are positive.”

The most concerning aspect of today’s Covid-19 revelations is that the border worker who tested positive had not been vaccinated, and that the Government doesn’t appear to know why, Mr Bishop says.

"Everyone in New Zealand will want to know why this border worker wasn't vaccinated, and how many other staff out there in our border and MIQ facilities haven’t yet received a vaccine - and why they haven’t received a vaccine.

“The Government has many questions still to answer on this.”