“If the Government wants to buy time for Omicron, it needs to explain how much that time costs, who pays, and why it’ll be worthwhile,” says ACT Leader David Seymour

“The answer cannot be that the Government is waiting for more data about Omicron just out of general caution. The delays cost too much for too many people. Any delay must be part of a clear strategy.

“We know that Omicron spreads faster, appears to hospitalise fewer people, and evades vaccines so some extent. The exact characteristics of Omicron will not change New Zealand’s basic realities. We’re going to get it sooner or later.

“Omicron will inevitably break through MIQ, as Delta did, but likely faster than Delta. Cases are piling up at the border and will no doubt pile up faster as the variant takes off overseas.

“Once Omicron is out, it will spread faster than Delta. We are going to end up in the same place, with widespread Omicron in New Zealand, sooner or later. The Government needs to explain why the costs of delay in reconnecting with the world are justified.

“New Zealanders are clamouring to reconnect with the world. They’ve done everything right, getting vaccinated and following the rules at great expense. If they’re asked to sacrifice more, there needs to be clarity about why that is. 

“If border openings are to be delayed or even lockdowns are to be reintroduced, there needs to be a clear reason for doing so. People have had enough of the Government’s restrictions, they can no longer be introduced without clarity that the benefits outweigh the costs.

“Specifically, the Government needs to say what it will do in the next month to ensure New Zealand is better prepared for Omicron. Does it have new vaccine strains ordered from Pfizer? Does it hope to increase ICU or general hospital capacity? Does it think a booster roll out will help control Omicron?

“Throughout the pandemic, ACT has said that the Government should take New Zealanders into their confidence and treat them like adults. If there is going to be a delay, the Government should say what information it is waiting for, and how will it act depending on what that information says.

“Nobody can provide certainty in this environment, but our Government must provide clarity for all those whose lives and livelihoods are affected by ongoing restrictions.