Massive victory for common sense

Mon, 28 Feb, 2022

“The Government has taken a massive dose of common sense by removing border restrictions where the costs outweigh the benefits. It’s just a shame Labour is reactive as usual instead of the proactive approach Kiwis need,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

ACT released Move On last week, arguing it’s time to move on from fear and move on from rules that don’t make sense. Move On is the fourth in our series of our policy documents about COVID-19. So far the Government has adopted more than 15 of our recommendations across the documents.

“The problem is we still have rules that don’t make sense at the border. Why, for example, are we waiting until Friday before Kiwis can return from places other than Australia? If it makes sense to let people with a negative test come straight in, then it makes sense everywhere.

“Why are we treating non-citizens differently from citizens? A New Zealand passport does not boost your immunity to COVID-19. Keeping foreigners out makes no sense when they’re biologically no different from Kiwis when it comes to COVID. Keeping them out does keep killing tourism while Australia opens up.

“While we’re pleased Jacinda has listened to us about isolation and MIQ, there’s a lot more advice where that came from. If it makes sense to dump one rule that doesn’t stack up, it makes sense to dump them all.

“The Prime Minister said today she’s asked Professor David Skegg and his advisory group to evaluate the other covid settings. The great news is that ACT has already done that work. We have carried out cost benefit analysis of all of the COVID restrictions:

• 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.”

Our website can be found at: https://www.moveon.kiwi