Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Government must open up about what next


“As the World starts to get on top of COVID-19, New Zealand’s focus must turn to how the country will move from the emergency measures of closed borders and rolling lockdowns that come with an elimination strategy to preparing our systems for safely reconnecting with a post-vaccine world,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“While we continue to witness death and economic destruction on a global scale, the rolling average of new daily coronavirus cases worldwide has almost halved in the last month, from 740,000 on 12 January to 398,000 yesterday – the first time it has reduced below 400,000 since last October.

“This trend will continue as the global vaccination campaign also picks up speed.

“Today’s data from Bloomberg shows 78 countries have administered 176 million doses of vaccine, with the present daily rate being almost 6 million doses, 15 times the present rate of new daily cases.

“As the most recent edition of The Economist notes, New Zealand has managed to keep death at bay by ‘bolting its doors against the world … but such a draconian policy makes no sense as a permanent defence: New Zealand is not North Korea.’

“Quite right, and as ACT has been saying since releasing our comprehensive COVID-19 response policy last August, we must undertake the work to plan how we reintegrate ourselves with the world as safely as possible.

“However, there has been a reluctance on the Government’s part to address the issue.

“This vacuum is concerning, as on numerous occasions down the COVID recovery path it’s been a sign the Government has been reluctant to do the work.

“Take saliva testing as an example.

As epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said of New Zealand’s COVID response on TVNZ this morning, 'we've been extremely slow to embrace scientific advances.’

“The Simpson-Roche report on shortcomings at the border identified that New Zealand’s work on verifying saliva testing was moving extremely slowly, while ‘in other jurisdictions saliva testing, involving large numbers of tests per day, has been well established for several months.’

“When the Prime Minister cast doubt on the accuracy and reliability of saliva testing on Radio NZ yesterday morning, it was almost word-for-word her criticism of the method reported by TVNZ seven months ago, despite analysis of 16 global studies published on 15 January finding the tests had ‘similar sensitivity and specificity to that of nasopharyngeal NAAT,’ otherwise known as nasal swabs.

“ACT has good ideas and policies to help New Zealand’s COVID recovery boat go faster, and we want the Government to embrace them.

“As The Economist rightly points out, ‘Across the world governments will have to work out when and how to switch from emergency measures to policies that are economically and socially sustainable indefinitely.’

“ACT will be asking a lot of questions of the Government over the coming weeks about how we strengthen our defences will safely reconnecting with a post-vaccine world.”

ENDS