Tuesday, 31 March 2020

COVID-19 committee produces new information on Govt response

“The first sitting of the Epidemic Response Committee, held today, produced a number pieces of new information”, according to ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Director-General of Health and the Minister of Health, under questioning, made a number of concessions and commitments about how the Government will manage the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“I asked the Minister and the Director-General why they had shut down butchers, bakers, and fresh fruit and vegetable stores. The Director-General provided very limited reasons (for example, that the one in, one out policy could not work for such stores, despite being required for dairies), and suggested the criteria would change in the coming days. If true, it would be a major win for common sense and fighting COVID-19. It makes no sense for people to travel further to bigger and busier stores because their local is closed.

“The Minister of Health said weekly and monthly publications have not been suppressed, and reassured us that, notwithstanding requirements around packaging hygiene, there is no restriction on any media outlet. This is a major win for a free media at this time.

“Both the Minister and the Director-General suggested they will heed the calls of Sir David Skegg to begin planned epidemiological studies very soon. The Minister said the Government is considering starting survey testing, similar to what is done for the flu, very soon. Lowering the Alert Level too soon or remaining at Alert Level 4 for too long would both be extremely costly mistakes. It is critical the Government invests in data and testing to inform such decisions as soon as possible.

“The Minister said he is open to putting in place a portal system where people with the supply of existing technologies such as PPE, as well as new technologies such as testing technology, can make their offerings to government.

“The Committee also published a letter from a lawyer, Dr Tony Ellis, stating that the Department of Corrections has acted illegally by restricting the right of prisoners to be visited by an MP or lawyer.”