“ACT welcomes the end of Covid restrictions the Government has clung on to for far too long, but in order to fully understand the damage they have done we need a full and independent investigation into the Government’s Covid response, and a plan to ensure we’re prepared for the future,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“This announcement is six months too late. Labour’s reluctance to move on has seen us fall further behind other countries.

“The comparisons with our closest neighbour are stark. Australia moved quicker than us in relaxing restrictions and as a result they have 38 per cent of their pre-Covid international students contributing to their economy, while in New Zealand we only have 4.5 per cent back. They’ve also returned to and exceeded their pre-Covid incoming migration levels at 107 per cent of pre-Covid. New Zealand is at 52 per cent of our pre-Covid incoming migration. This is why so many businesses are struggling under the weight of workforce shortages.

“It is sensible to take away isolation requirements for household contacts, but it would also make sense to shorten the isolation period for cases. Keeping people locked in their houses longer than is necessary imposes costs to both them and the economy. We should adopt Singapore’s policy of 72 hour isolations, a negative test and you’re out.

“The impacts of our response have been immense. We have reason to believe there will be significant impacts on our children’s educations, mental health, benefit dependency, crime, social cohesion, business strength and infrastructure for years and years to come.

“Under Labour, the only illumination we get is from gaslighting. It pretends against all rational evidence that its actions aren’t the reason our health system is crumbling and our businesses are closing.

“New Zealand is too small for an objective investigation. ACT’s investigation would lean on experts from a range of countries that did things well, and not so well, to give an honest review. We would ask Taiwanese, Swedish, and Australian experts, for example, to be part of the investigation. This will inform a publicly available pandemic plan.

Its terms of reference will include, but not be limited to:

  • The effects of the Government’s response on mental health, children’s learning, and crime
  • The effects of the Government’s response on social cohesion and trust in institutions
  • The fiscal and economic costs of the Government’s response, including the use of unconventional monetary policy
  • The cost of Quality Adjusted Life Years saved from Covid in comparison with other challenges
  • Compliance with the Bill of Rights, and whether restrictions were always justifiable in a free and democratic society
  • Absorption of technologies such as for testing and tracing, into the response
  • Relationships with private sector partners including technology suppliers, GPs, and community vaccination centres
  • The quality of advice and the Government’s attention to advice from a range of departments other than Health, such as the Ministry of Education and Treasury
  • The timing of vaccine ordering and distribution

“The investigation is not simply about learning what Labour did wrong. It is about working out what we need to do right. There will be another pandemic. Probably not this year, hopefully not in the next decade, but almost certainly in our lifetime. In the future, it could save New Zealand billions of dollars in costly mistakes. We literally cannot afford to repeat Labour’s handling of this pandemic.

“We can’t have a lost generation who suffers due to the impacts of our Covid response, without even looking at what we could have done better and ensuring we don’t make the same mistakes again. While other parties are focused on the next election, ACT is focused on the next generation.”

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David Seymour