Sunday, 14 November 2021

Mandate Monday should have testing alternative


“With the onset of widespread vaccine mandates about to create chaos in multiple sectors, it’s time for the Government to apply the approach of the Danish Government, Air New Zealand, and its own requirement for teachers to all mandates. That is, the mandate should allow regular testing as an alternative to vaccination,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The ACT caucus is as pro vaccination as anyone and we share the frustration of many that some people won’t get vaccinated. I personally wish they would just do it, but the Government’s blunt approach to mandates has gone too far now. 

“There is a meanness in the Government’s tone towards vaccination that is not good for social cohesion in the long term. We were once a team of five million uniting against COVID-19, Ardern’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach to vaccine mandates is undoing that unity and replacing it with division.

“Nearly every sector is experiencing great difficulty with vaccination mandates. Teachers have testing as an alternative to vaccination, at least in the interim. Firefighters have just been given a two-week extension. The Government is suspiciously silent on a mandate for the police force. Vaccine mandates are blowing up a critical shortage of midwives. As a rule of thumb, it appears these sectors may lose five per cent of their workforce to mandates. None of them can afford that as they are all stretched already.

“There are many stories about people set to miss out on critical services due to the mandates. A school principal approached me saying they have over a dozen international students in homestays where the hosts have not confirmed their status. The school is breaking the law from Monday by letting the students stay put, but they can hardly make them homeless.

"I was approached by a group of women losing their beloved hydrotherapy instructor, who does not want to be vaccinated, from Monday. A mental health worker asked me, can I not intervene in a suicide because I’m not vaccinated? Pregnant women say they’d rather have an unvaccinated midwife than no midwife. It goes on. 

“Good policy gets to the heart of the problem it’s trying to solve, then asks what the best way to solve the problem is. The point of vaccine mandates is to save hospital capacity by lifting vaccination rates generally, and prevent unvaccinated people from passing COVID on to others. 

“Mandates in specific sectors are a blunt way to lift overall rates, that should be done by an efficient roll out boosting availability, and incentives. Regular testing can provide as much if not more reassurance to people encountering essential workers that they are safe.

“The idea of a vaxx/test mandate is not new. It is the official policy of Denmark, where a phone app pass shows that a person is either vaccinated, recently tested, or has recently recovered from COVID. In the United States, Joe Biden’s policy requires firms with over 100 employees to be either vaccinated or tested.

“From mid-December, Air New Zealand’s official policy for domestic travel will be to require either vaccination or a negative test within 72-hours to fly. If it is good enough for Air New Zealand passengers flying around the country, is it not good enough for your midwife?

“ACT’s preferred policy is to allow businesses to decide their own policy for vaccination, the option of regular testing as a substitute can be built into that. However, if the Government is going to press on with sector-wide mandates, then it should allow the choice of testing.

“Regular saliva testing is already available for border workers, essential workers crossing borders, and teachers. Allied Pacific Health Group, who have the Government contract to provide saliva testing, have got 88 pick up and drop off sites for samples already. It appears they are operating below capacity, and could test a lot more people if needed.

“The Government should avert chaos, worker shortages, and division by delaying its mandate policy until its App is ready. The requirement for working in a mandated workplace should be the same as getting on an Air New Zealand plane. Be vaccinated, or have a negative COVID test result less than 72-hours old.

“The Government should build a test validation function into its vaccine passport app. Better still, Jacinda should use her relationship with Mette Fredericksen, get on the phone, and ask to borrow the Danish model for New Zealand. 

“A vaxx/test mandate is not giving up on vaccination. I suspect many people, after a few weeks of testing twice a week, will opt to get vaccinated after all. However, at this point we need continuity and unity over chaos and division.

“We need to keep essential services functioning and stop seeding division. As Dave Dobbyn says, we’re fighting COVID, not humanity.”