“The Government’s inability to provide clarity on when the Covid-19 vaccines it has purchased will arrive is alarming and deserves a much better explanation,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Grant Robertson told NewstalkZB today ‘I can tell you as Finance Minister, we’re beginning to write the cheques out for the vaccines.’

“He was then asked why New Zealand’s timeline for beginning vaccination had slipped from the first quarter of this year to the second quarter, and whether he could be precise about when things would start.

“He responded ‘unfortunately I can’t be today.’

“Pardon me? Who writes cheques in the hundreds of millions of dollars and doesn’t even get an indicative delivery date for the goods?

“What’s becoming clear is that either New Zealand has told vaccine companies not to prioritise delivery of our vaccine because of our present situation – in which case they should be up front and tell us that – or the vaccine makers have bumped us to the back of the queue.

“Just this morning Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins ventured that perhaps our first doses might arrive ‘toward the end of the first quarter, sometime in March,’ but he couldn’t be more precise either, and in doing so he incorrectly suggested Australia was on the same timeline.

“But he was wrong. Australia has purchased the Pfizer vaccine and according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison approval will be granted this month and it will begin its vaccination programme in mid-to-late February.

“By the time the vaccine finally arrives here, whenever that is, it’s possible Australia will have vaccinated almost as many people as New Zealand’s entire population.

“Ministers need to come clean on when our vaccines will arrive and why we’re on such a different timeline to our Aussie cousins.”