Thursday, 7 October 2021

Nice but clueless leadership from PM on testing


“Improving our approach to testing is another thing the Prime Minister should have done instead of a little dance while we enjoyed Covid-19 freedom”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“This long nap, when we could have been preparing our defences, is another example of nice but clueless leadership from Ardern.

“The Government’s Covid-19 testing strategy has rightly been slated in a new report and its response is too little, too late.

“As with vaccinations and contact tracing, New Zealanders have played their part, but the Government has let the team of five million down.

“New Zealanders have endured significant restrictions on their lives which could have been reduced by taking an innovative, tech-led approach to testing.

“The Government’s approach has been centralised and opaque. Those who have tried to partner with it from the private sector have expressed immense frustration. Nothing has epitomised this more than its reluctance to introduce saliva testing and its ban on importing self-test kits that are widely used offshore.

“Rako Science has the capacity to do 10,000 tests a day on top of Asia Pacific’s 3,500. Since 25 January, we have done just several hundred saliva tests in quarantine facilities. Community-based saliva testing has been virtually non-existent.

“ACT has long argued for greater innovation and faster tech uptake.

“While new testing technologies have become important overseas, our Government failed at scaling up saliva testing and prohibited citizens from importing point of care tests.

“Fast tech uptake has shown its value overseas, while the New Zealand Government has been widely criticised for its struggles with testing, tracing, and treatment technologies. We should have been a leading adopter of new technology.

ACT’s COVID 3.0 plan would:

1. Recognise that eradication no longer stacks up. We must move to a policy of harm minimisation. This policy should aim to reduce transmission, hospitalisation, and death from COVID at the least possible cost of overall wellbeing.

2. Move from isolating whole cities to isolating only those who it makes sense to isolate. Personal isolation should be restricted to three groups: those who are medically vulnerable and require special protection, those who have recently arrived in New Zealand and are privately isolating, and those who have tested positive as part of widespread surveillance testing.

3. Move from chronic fear and uncertainty and get on a clear path to restoring freedom. We should settle when the vaccine rollout is ‘complete’ and aim to get Kiwis home for Christmas.

4. Move from a ‘government knows best’ approach to an approach of openness, and host all in ‘sprints’. In each sprint, the business community and all of society are invited to help reach clearly identified goals of lower transmission rates, hospitalisations and deaths, in time for reopening.

5. The entire tone of New Zealand’s COVID response should shift from fear and a singular focus on public health to a focus on maximising overall wellbeing.

ACT’s COVID 3.0 plan can be found here.