Monday, 8 June 2020

Professor Baker backs ACT’s call for investigation, national public health agency

“Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker from Otago University has backed ACT’s calls for a review of our Covid-19 response and a national public health agency, and the Prime Minister should listen to him,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

Speaking to the Mike Hosking Breakfast this morning, Baker said there were many things the Government could do to continue to manage the threat of Covid-19, including conducting a thorough review of our response so far and establishing a national public health agency.

“ACT has recently called for both.

“Late last month, we said a Royal Commission should be conducted before the next flu season.

“Covid-19 may return next year and we can’t afford to shut the economy down again.

“We must have an open, honest debate about how we could have done better so that we are prepared for the next pandemic.

“A Royal Commission needs to consider a range of issues, including whether: the borders should have been closed earlier; our pandemic plan, PPE stockpile and distribution, contact tracing, and testing were adequate; the rules set by the Government appropriately balanced Covid-19 elimination with other goals; the Government acted in accordance with the rule of law.

“Earlier in May, in ACT’s Alternative Budget, we proposed a national public health agency.

“In a country of five million, operating 12 separate public health units makes little sense. We would merge the regional public health services into a single national agency, with responsibility for planning and executing our epidemic response and managing a single national public health database.

“This national agency would also be responsible for auditing DHBs’ own epidemic response plans and managing an expanded national strategic reserve of PPE. It would also lead the response to future pandemics and focus solely on infectious diseases, rather than regulating private behaviour.

“It’s encouraging to see that Professor Baker agrees with us on both counts.

“The Prime Minister claims to have been led by the experts all the way through this crisis.

“We hope she listens to Professor Baker and establishes a Royal Commission and a national public health agency.”