ACT has some rapid advice for Jacinda

Sat, 26 Feb, 2022

“With 12,000 cases in the community and just 19 at the border ACT has all the rapid advice the Prime Minister needs about isolation and MIQ,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Jacinda told Newshub Nation this morning that “We've actually asked our team of advisers we're using, led by Professor David Skegg, to give us rapid advice on isolation periods for those coming in at the border. We're expecting it shortly."

“How is it not patently obvious already? New Zealanders are desperate to come home and our tourism industry is on its knees. It’s time to move on.

“With more than 10,000 cases in the community the rest of the world will be looking at New Zealand and wondering why it’s us locking them out.

“Even Ashley Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health now agree that the risk from the border is lower than the risk in the community.

“While Jacinda said the advice she was receiving is “rapid” it won’t be ready for Cabinet to consider on Monday.

“ACT says it’s time to move on. In the absence of the Government carrying out a cost-benefit analysis, ACT has done it for them, including reviewing MIQ and isolation.

• MIQ: The personal and commercial costs of MIQ are immense. It is decimating whole industries, separating families, and denying business and travel opportunities to the whole country. The humane and rational response of the Government would be to dump MIQ now, rather than phase it out over the coming eight months. It doesn’t work, ties up valuable resources, and is unimaginably cruel. People are justified in asking why we keep doing it. Our objective must be to safely reconnect with the world. Allowing people to enter New Zealand with no greater isolation requirements than are needed for domestic cases should be done immediately.

• Isolation: Requirements must adapt to the scientific evidence. Keeping people locked in their houses longer than is necessary imposes real costs to them and the economy, without improving our COVID-19 response. As soon as a case receives a negative result, whenever that occurs after the initial 72 hours, they should be free to go.

• Scanning and contact tracing: Contact tracing creates relatively minor costs, but also delivers negligible benefits because it does not reach enough potential contacts or reach them fast enough in light of Omicron’s higher transmissibility. It results in some people isolating because they are “pinged” but often not in time to prevent them from transmitting the virus. The resulting isolation that comes from being pinged is a growing disaster for business and supply chains. The requirement for businesses to display codes and have people scan in should be dropped, along with the requirement to contact trace cases, because it’s just not working. Dropping these requirements would be an important symbol that we are moving on and getting our way of life back. It should be done immediately.

• Mask requirements: Well-worn and high-quality masks can help prevent spread. Mask wearing likely has significant benefits for reducing the spread of Omicron, although this is sensitive to mask quality. While extremely irritating, it is one of the few current policies where it is reasonable to believe that the benefits outweigh the costs.

• Boosters: Relative to a two-shot regimen, booster shots significantly reduce the likelihood of death and serious illness due to COVID-19. There is a limited cost. Boosters are an important way to reduce the costs of the inevitable spread of Omicron through the community. Nonetheless, given most of the benefits of booster doses go to those who get boosted, there is little case for mandating them.

• Vaccine requirements: It is difficult to justify a vaccination mandate purely on the grounds that it reduces hospitalisation risk for unvaccinated people themselves and thus pressure on the health system. This effect has already reached saturation. Unless a new requirement for boosters is introduced, mandating is having negligible effect on vaccine uptake and should be dropped immediately.

• Traffic Light Framework: The Government has dashed large events and hospitality businesses at enormous cost with little consideration for what the benefits might be. If they have cost-benefit analysis for Omicron, they have not presented it. We have been asked to accept these restrictions with no idea whether they will leave us better off or by how much. Unless the Government can show the benefits of restricting large events in an Omicron environment, in terms of reducing the peak demand on hospital capacity, the Traffic Light System should be dumped immediately so we can all move on.

• Ban on importing RATs: There are no benefits to the ban, but the costs are considerable. The Government should adopt ACT’s policy that New Zealanders can import any test that is approved by authorities in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, or the European Union.

“We should not keep ineffective and costly rules because they make us feel comfortable. If rules are not useful they should go, and it should be up to the Government that imposes them on us to explain why they should stay. It’s time to stop the fear and the control. It’s time to move on.”

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