Thursday, 3 June 2021

Complacency leads to COVID outbreak


“Reports released today into the transmission of COVID-19 at the Grand Millennium and Grand Mercure hotels show the Government has been far too complacent,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“According to the KPMG report, Case B did not report for, or undergo all of their required testing.

“It should have been up to Government to ensure that workers were undergoing the tests they needed to. It relied on an honesty system instead of good record keeping. 

“Claiming privacy concerns is not a good enough excuse. Parliament has given enormous powers to Government to act and keep New Zealanders safe from COVID. The Government should have waived privacy concerns for this reason, ACT has said all along, that one of the things the Government must do is become good at setting clear rules of the game.

“The reports are very clear that communications between Government agencies appear to be fragmented. That’s why ACT has been calling for a centralised Epidemic Response Unit since August.

“The Ministry of Health has said there are ‘barriers to accessing testing for nightshift workers at MIQ facilities, as tests are done during the day’.

“The Ministry knows staff are working around the clock. It seems incomprehensible that after months and months the Government hasn’t realised that the COVID-19 response is not business as usual.

“This is a failure of the Government across the board. It's more focused on the ideology or the institution doing the delivery than it is on the actual outcome for New Zealanders.

“Melbourne and Taiwan have shown us just how precarious our COVID-free status is. MIQ is where COVID would come from into our communities – we have to ensure a strong defence line. The buck stops with the Ministry of Health and the Minister on this.

“We should have had continuous improvement of our response in MIQ instead of patting ourselves on the back for a job well done, when that job was far from over.

“ACT has developed a plan for the immediate next steps of New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 and a longer term strategy for living in a progressively vaccinated world.

“It is underpinned by five principles: government transparency; faster tech uptake; risk-proportionate responses; a culture of inviting criticism; and maximising human wellbeing.

“It also makes 15 policy recommendations, including:

  • Compulsory COVID-app use including Bluetooth functionality to improve contact tracing
  • Introduce daily PCR saliva testing and the use of Datamine’s ëlarm technology to the border and MIQ workforce to alert them to early signs of infection
  • An Epidemic Response Unit modelled off Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre to replace COVID-19 response leadership by the Ministry of Health
  • Reactivate Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee

“Investigating and doing these things requires the Government being prepared to put the effort and resources into them.

“Whatever that resource may be, ACT’s view is the cost will be considerably less than further lockdowns caused by inadequate measures at the border, patchy contact tracing, and a slow vaccination roll-out.”