Sunday, 19 April 2020

Govt must release damning contact tracing report

“The Government must release a damning report on the Ministry of Health’s ability to do contact tracing”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

Otago University infectious diseases physician Ayesha Verrall recently audited the Ministry of Health’s contact tracing capabilities. The Ministry received the report a week ago and Ministers were to receive it on Thursday.

“When to lift the lockdown will one of the most consequential decisions any government has made in our recent history. The Government’s capacity to do contact tracing will be a critical factor in Cabinet’s decision-making.

“If the Government is not open about shortcomings in its COVID-19 response, how can it enlist private sector help? How do workers and businesses plan their lives if they are being kept in the dark?

“The public interest in seeing this information outweighs any reason the Government might have for withholding it.

“The Prime Minister’s rationale for hiding the report is nakedly political. She said on Wednesday:

‘…there was discussion among officials about whether the report should be released before the Government responded to its recommendations. But then immediately the question becomes ‘What have we done?’. So we’re putting [them] both out at the same time. I imagine fairly soon after the ministers having received it we will put it into the public domain.’

“Jacinda Ardern appears to be concerned that if she releases Dr Verrall’s report, the public will have questions for the Government.

“This Government billed itself as the most open and transparent government in New Zealand’s history.

“But it has refused to release Crown Law advice on the legal basis for the lockdown and Police’s significant new powers. Nor has the public seen any of the advice Cabinet relied on for its major decisions over the past month.

“The country is currently being run by a tiny group of Ministers and civil servants. The decisions being taken by them are quite literally life and death.

“The public deserves to be part of the conversation. The Government must start treating New Zealanders like adults and begin releasing critical information and advice on its COVID-19 response, including its capacity to do contact tracing.”