“Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield couldn’t answer basic but critical questions about the COVID response at Health Select Committee this morning,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“How many people are being admitted to hospital with COVID? How will the Government define that the wave has peaked? What is the public policy purpose of mandates at this point? All of these questions matter and none of them were answered.
“We are constantly told that restrictions will be lifted and we will get control of our lives back when the peak is reached. When asked what that means, the Minister deferred to Ashley Bloomfield, who couldn’t answer either.
“Asked how many of the 742 people reported as being in hospital with COVID yesterday were admitted with COVID, they didn’t know. Ashley Bloomfield said that they don’t know because people’s reason for admission can’t be known until they are discharged.
“He guessed it is 75 per cent and going down. That’s not good enough. COVID policy is largely driven by the need to save the hospitals from being overloaded, and yet two years into the pandemic, the Government can only guess how many people are in hospital because of COVID-19.
“Bloomfield pointed out lots of obvious things, like there will be different peaks in different regions, and there are different measures such as PCR, rapid antigen and wastewater testing, and hospital admission numbers. What they couldn’t give is a clear definition: ‘we say a wave has peaked when when these numbers decline for a week.’
“The Government either doesn’t know what it means for a wave to peak, or it does and won’t tell us. Either way it is impossible for people to understand how the Government will act, in the future, and therefore plan their futures. We are hostage to whatever they decide without rhyme nor reason.
“Finally I asked what the public policy rationale is for keeping mandates. Hipkins couldn’t answer this either. It is not complicated. Either we have mandates:
- To encourage more people to get vaccinated
- To prevent spread by segregating vaccinated people
- To reduce hospitalisation by ensuring unvaccinated people are not exposed to COVID
“The Minister could not answer because none of these explanations make sense any more. At 97 per cent, mandates won’t make more people get vaccinated. The growth of cases is exponential, vaccinations mandates are not affecting it any more. People who are unvaccinated can still go to the supermarket and catch COVID, so the benefit of segregating them from other activities for their own good and that of the hospital system seems limited, to say the least.
“We need an open and transparent Government that has a plan and is prepared to explain it candidly. What we have instead is a tired Government that won’t explain key facts about its COVID response, one suspects because they don’t know the answers themselves.”