Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Preparing New Zealand for a post-vaccine world

“ACT has done what the Government hasn’t but the business community and others have been crying out for – develop a plan for the immediate next steps of New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 and a longer term strategy for living in a progressively vaccinated world,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Not only did ACT release the most comprehensive, solutions-based COVID-19 policy of any political party six months ago, we’ve been thinking ever since about innovative ways to respond to the megatrends in the global pandemic response.

“The plan we’re releasing today – ACT’s COVID Response Plan 2.0 – is a three phase picture of how the country should respond to COVID-19 over the next six months.

“It responds to four megatrends in the global COVID situation:

1. Vaccination
2. Public fatigue
3. New variants
4. Innovation

“It is underpinned by five principles in response to those trends:

1. Transparency
2. Fast tech uptake
3. Responses proportionate to risk
4. A culture of admitting failure and seeking improvement
5. Improving wellbeing by balancing COVID and non-COVID objectives

“We’re confident following this strategy will make New Zealanders safer, more prosperous and eventually more connected in the COVID environment.

“It makes 15 policy recommendations; seven immediate changes to get New Zealand to herd immunity without further lockdowns; five short term changes to prepare us for a post-vaccine world; and three medium term measures for how we can operate in the post-vaccine environment.

“Among seven proposed immediate changes ACT says should be made are:

  • Compulsory COVID-app use including Bluetooth functionality to improve contact tracing
  • Introduce daily PCR saliva testing and the use of Datamine’s ëlarm technology to the border and MIQ workforce to alert them to early signs of infection
  • Begin establishing an Epidemic Response Unit modelled off Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre to replace COVID-19 response leadership by the Ministry of Health
  • Reactivate Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee

“Short and medium term measures designed to prepare New Zealand for the months and years ahead include:

  • Progress work on a vaccine passport
  • Rolling out wider use of screening tests
  • Begin work on a Business Travel Network aligned with rules already promoting business travel to the likes of Singapore and Taiwan
  • Beginning work on a Digital Fence system for some self-isolation, taking pressure off the existing MIQ network and introducing a risk-based traffic light system for MIQ.

“This is a constructive playbook for the country – not a look through the rear view mirror at New Zealand’s successes and failures, but a look through the front windscreen at where we’re going.

“Nothing we’re suggesting here would necessarily take away from existing measures in place – this potentially enhances and adds to what we’re already doing.

“Investigating and doing these things requires the Government being prepared to put the effort and resources into them.

“Whatever that resource may be, ACT’s view is the cost will be considerably less than further lockdowns caused by inadequate security measures at the border, including far too infrequent testing and patchy contact tracing.

“ACT’s position all along has been to propose sound policy solutions to the challenges we face while holding the Government to account.

“ACT just wants to make the boat go faster.

“We think New Zealanders will see this suite of proposals as in the country’s best interests and worthy of both investigation and investment.”