Thursday, 18 June 2020

Government incompetence shows why a Royal Commission is needed


“Government incompetence with managed isolation and personal protective equipment show why a Royal Commission into the Covid-19 response is needed,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Government is borrowing $140 billion as a result of Covid-19 and its response to the crisis, yet is spending nothing on finding out if its response was effective.

“Over the past 24 hours, we’ve seen several glaring failures in the processes around managed isolation and quarantine.

“The Auditor-General yesterday found that the Ministry of Health didn't know how much PPE it had, how much would be needed, or how much had expired. Mixed messaging has led to confusion, different DHBs have been given inconsistent information, and there hasn't been a national stocktake since 2016.

“Covid-19 may return next year and we can’t afford to shut the economy down again. Being unprepared for the first major pandemic in 100 years may be understandable, but repeating our mistakes if it comes back next year is totally unacceptable.

“Crisis thinking is very different from honest reflection on how we could have done better.

“New Zealanders responded to blunt imperatives to get through the crisis. ‘Stay home, save lives.’ ‘Unite against Covid-19’ as a ‘team of five million.’

“The approach needed in a crisis, though, is not the approach needed for avoiding the next one.

“We need open, honest debate. New Zealanders have accepted unprecedented restrictions on their lives with little scrutiny.

“A Royal Commission would need international guidance. New Zealand is too small and too many of the players have been too invested in the Government’s response.

“The country needs to put politics aside and ask objectively how we could have done better, because we might have to sooner than we think.

“There are many questions to be answered. A Royal Commission could consider whether:

• our borders should have been closed earlier;
• our pandemic plan was world class, like Taiwan’s, or an outdated response informed by the 1918 Spanish flu;
• the national PPE stockpile was adequate and distribution was sufficiently organised;
• contact tracing capabilities were adequate;
• the Government had adequate testing, including planned epidemiological studies to provide data for decision-making;
• the rules set by the Government appropriately balanced Covid-19 elimination with other goals;
• the Government acted in accordance with the rule of law.

“There is recent precedent. The Royal Commission into the Canterbury earthquakes was established in April 2011, two months after the February earthquake. The Royal Commission into the Christchurch terrorist attacks was set up the month after the attacks.

“A Royal Commission into the Covid-19 response should report back prior to April 2021 so that any recommendations can be implemented before the next flu season.”