“Consensus is growing for a Wellbeing Approach to tackling COVID-19 with two prominent New Zealanders writing in the New Zealand Medical Journal this morning that ‘there’s got to be a better way,’” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The University of Auckland’s Professor Des Gorman and former Treasury Secretary and ANZ boss Murray Horn have written that New Zealand cannot continue with its current strategy of damaging lockdowns. Instead, we need ‘more disciplined border management, earlier detection through more testing, along with faster contact tracing and isolation of cases, combined with approaches to social distancing (including masks).’

“ACT’s Wellbeing Approach to COVID-19 is very much in line with Gorman and Horn’s approach. It promotes the Taiwanese model, including an Epidemic Response Centre, proportional responses to risk, and better adoption of technologies for contact tracing.

“Gorman and Horn also call for a multi-disciplinary public and private sector epidemic response centre to manage COVID-19 with policy targets like those set for the Reserve Bank. ‘It is not fair to ask a ‘policy shop’ like the Ministry of Health, who have limited operational experience or capacity, to take up what is a complex operational command and control role,’ they write.

“ACT’s Wellbeing Approach says the Ministry of Health is not the organisation to bring together manufacturing and distribution (PPE), software development (contact tracing), operations (testing and isolating). A multi-disciplinary, public and private, taskforce with overarching responsibility for our national strategy, like Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre, should be established instead.

“Gorman and Horn call for a separation between the Government setting the policy agenda and an epidemic response centre delivering. There would also be a need for governance skills to ensure that the right monitoring and auditing processes were in place so that the governors could be realistically held accountable for what goes on further down in their organisation.

“ACT’s Wellbeing Approach calls for recognising the role of government as a referee, not a player, in maximising wellbeing in the face of COVID-19. The role of government should be to set clear rules of the game rather than to be a player itself.

“This article from two very prominent New Zealanders backs up what I have been saying this week, including in my speech to Parliament on Tuesday and in ACT’s Wellbeing Approach to COVID-19 policy released yesterday. It is clearly time for a change our approach to COVID-19 and a clear consensus is emerging in what that approach should be.”

ACT calls for:

• A multi-disciplinary Epidemic Response Centre
• Government as referee, not player: allow arrivals to isolate at alternative facilities and be electronically monitored; strict punishment for rule-breakers
• A risk-weighted response: treat different countries and travellers with different levels of caution
• A technology-driven response: use innovations such as the Covid Card, GPS locatable cell phones and Datamine’s ëlarm.