Wednesday, 26 February 2020

PM should return from Fiji as coronavirus crisis worsens


“The Prime Minister should return from her three day visit to Fiji as the coronavirus situation gets serious”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Fiji is a nice place, but its economy is 20 times smaller than New Zealand’s. It is not an important trade partner and certainly not a place for the Prime Minister to spend three days as a crisis emerges.

“Make no mistake, a crisis is emerging. The situation has materially worsened since the Prime Minister left for Fiji. The number of countries affected has grown to 37, the position taken by foreign governments has hardened, and the financial markets are starting to reflect a slowdown in the real economy. These are just the developments of the past 48 hours.

“The Americans are now saying it is futile to keep the virus out, the same must be true of New Zealand as 37 countries now have the virus. We now face a world where coronavirus will come to New Zealand and we must prepare for a pandemic.

“At what point do hospitals cancel elective surgeries to free up beds? What is our capacity to quarantine large numbers of people in more Whangaparaoa-like facilities? How would schools respond? Is New Zealand in line to access any future vaccine? These are just some of the questions the Prime Minister should be in the capital leading on.

“Meanwhile the New Zealand economy may be facing the end of the longest economic growth cycle in the post-war era. Many argue a correction is overdue. It may be arriving and, if it is, it will be brutal.

“This morning, economists at NZIER said our economy will experience a negative shock in the short-term and that the long-term economic picture is highly uncertain. Tourism and trade are suffering. On Monday, the NZX had its worst day in four months and is down again this morning. KiwiSaver accounts are taking a hit.

“That the PM has prioritised a trip to Fiji over dealing with coronavirus is misguided. The New Zealand economy is at a tipping point. The Prime Minister should be here dealing with the potential fallout.”