“New Zealanders need calm and clarity from Government as the WHO identifies a new variant of concern in South Africa,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“New Zealand is finally, finally, on a path to getting our way of life back. Vaccination rates are high, modelling shows the hospital system can handle opening up under Delta, we know when things will happen even if very late.
“More than anything, we need to preserve clarity in the Government’s response as this new variant emerges, with lots for us to learn. Omicron has only been known for a couple of weeks, and is detected in a country with poor public health where only 24 per cent are fully vaccinated.
“It will take time before it’s clear whether this new variant truly is more infectious, causes worse disease, can reinfect those previously infected, and can bust through vaccines, Pfizer in particular.
“Clarity and calmness are the order of the day. The Government should reassure New Zealanders that it will buy time with selective border closures. It should immediately list the countries with the Omicron variant to high risk and limit travel. It should be meeting urgently today to put in place a plan.
‘It should also give reassurance that it will continue with its plan of moving to the COVID protection framework and opening borders. It should then start upgrading its overall COVID response, because this variant won’t be the last.
“The Government also needs to be honest and real. This new variant exists, and it’s only a matter of time before it reaches our shores, whatever we do. We cannot afford, given the pressures on the workforce, many industries, and cost of living, to do any more debt-supported national isolation.
“New variants were always going to arrive. ACT’s COVID 2.0 paper, released in March of this year, identified variants as one of four megatrends (alongside technology, vaccines, and COVID fatigue). A new variant should not lead to mass panic or further disruption.
“People badly need clarity in the Government’s response, so that they can plan their lives. It’s not just people’s Christmases that need clarity, it’s all those people who need their businesses to reopen, or become viable at all.
“ACT will be watching the response to Omicron to see if anything at all has changed since the Government was not ready for Delta. Just yesterday, a Friday afternoon document dump, where the Government tried to hide the evidence of its poor handing of Delta, included a letter from Sir Brian Roche.
“The letter outlined a litany of failings including poor levels of preparedness in hospitals and not enough testing and tracing. All things ACT has been highlighting for months. “COVID Response Chris Hipkins needs to let New Zealanders know what the Government is doing to prepare for Omicron. We can’t let the response be the same as Delta.
“He should read ACT’s COVID 3.0 plan and instead of implementing our proposals months too late, he should take our suggestions now.”