“Labour’s Covid-19 response has always followed the science – political science”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Three days after a TVNZ poll found 75 per cent of voters believed we should open the borders to negative tested travellers immediately, Labour has brought its reopening date for visitors forward by six months.

“Jacinda is making up the rules as she goes along and none of it is based on evidence.

“While it’s welcome news, today’s announcement should be accompanied by an apology. Tourism, and parts of the country that depend critically on tourism, have been devastated by the Government’s refusal to reconnect with the rest of the world.

“Two weeks ago, I asked Jacinda Ardern two simple questions.

“How many cases and hospitalisations would result from opening the border to all travellers immediately? She didn’t know.

“How many hospitalisations were admitted to hospital due to Covid-19 and how many were admitted for something else and tested positive while there? She didn’t know.

“If border decisions are being made to protect the hospital system, the Prime Minister should be able to explain what analysis of the costs and benefits is driving her decisions.

“The reality is, Jacinda has been playing politics with people’s lives.

“It’s time to move on from Covid-19.

“We should not keep ineffective and costly rules because they make us feel comfortable if there’s no evidence that they work. If rules are not useful they should go, and it should be up to the Government that imposes them on us to explain why they should stay. It’s time to stop the fear and the control. It’s time to move on.”

ACT’s Move On plan proposes:

  • Scanning and contact tracing: Contact tracing creates relatively minor costs, but also delivers negligible benefits because it does not reach enough potential contacts or reach them fast enough in light of Omicron’s higher transmissibility. It results in some people isolating because they are “pinged” but often not in time to prevent them from transmitting the virus. The resulting isolation that comes from being pinged is a growing disaster for business and supply chains. The requirement for businesses to display codes and have people scan in should be dropped, along with the requirement to contact trace cases, because it’s just not working. Dropping these requirements would be an important symbol that we are moving on and getting our way of life back. It should be done immediately.
  • Mask requirements: Well-worn and high-quality masks can help prevent spread. Mask wearing likely has significant benefits for reducing the spread of Omicron, although this is sensitive to mask quality. While extremely irritating, it is one of the few current policies where it is reasonable to believe that the benefits outweigh the costs.
  • Boosters: Relative to a two-shot regimen, booster shots significantly reduce the likelihood of death and serious illness due to COVID-19. There is a limited cost. Boosters are an important way to reduce the costs of the inevitable spread of Omicron through the community. Nonetheless, given most of the benefits of booster doses go to those who get boosted, there is little case for mandating them.
  • Vaccine requirements: It is difficult to justify a vaccination mandate purely on the grounds that it reduces hospitalisation risk for unvaccinated people themselves and thus pressure on the health system. This effect has already reached saturation. Unless a new requirement for boosters is introduced, mandating is having negligible effect on vaccine uptake and should be dropped immediately.
  • Traffic Light Framework: The Government has dashed large events and hospitality businesses at enormous cost with little consideration for what the benefits might be. If they have cost-benefit analysis for Omicron, they have not presented it. We have been asked to accept these restrictions with no idea whether they will leave us better off or by how much. Unless the Government can show the benefits of restricting large events in an Omicron environment, in terms of reducing the peak demand on hospital capacity, the Traffic Light System should be dumped immediately so we can all move on.
  • Ban on importing RATs: There are no benefits to the ban, but the costs are considerable. The Government should adopt ACT’s policy that New Zealanders can import any test that is approved by authorities in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, or the European Union.

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