No plan for Omicron – just crickets

Thu, 20 Jan, 2022

“Back from a long holiday the Government has finally fronted about the imminent arrival of Omicron – only to admit what we suspected all along, there is no plan,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Fresh from making announcements about announcements, the Government is now making a plan about a plan.

“In what was a perfect metaphor, when New Zealanders tuned into the live stream to hear Jacinda’s plan to face Omicron but all they heard was crickets. 

“There is no plan for businesses. Jacinda said “MBIE is working on advice.” Businesses are desperate to know the rules of the game. How will they manage massive demand for sick leave? Who decides what is essential? Will there be a wage subsidy? How will they get access to Rapid Antigen tests? Who will be prioritised?

“What it should have done is explained what the isolation rules will be for a vaccinated, otherwise healthy person who tests positive for omicron. With that information businesses could start to plan, but now their main problem is government created uncertainty.

“There is no plan for the border. When can Kiwis come home to their own country? How long will MIQ continue when there’s widespread community transmission of Omicron? Are they communicating with airlines to ensure flights still come here when we do open up?

“What Jacinda should have said is this: We will not force Kiwis through MIQ when there is already widespread community transmission of Omicron.

“There is no plan for targeted boosters. Are they calling over 65s and the vulnerable to get them jabbed first? Have they identified the number of vulnerable people and set a target to get them boosted? Are GPs being asked to call their vulnerable patients?

“What they should have said is: This Government has identified the people who are most at risk of being hospitalised with Omicron, now we will engage in an all-out sprint to get them boosted. We will report progress on boosting this group daily.

“Conversely, testing will be tightly targeted, with restrictions. We appreciate the Government has said they will provide Rapid Antigen tests for free, that is massive progress since the tests were completely banned.

“On the other hand, why can only the Government distribute Rapid Antigen tests? Why can’t private citizens or businesses just buy one themselves. What is the logic of continuing the ban on Kiwis buying their own tests?

“What they should have said is this: The Government is committed to ensuring there are enough Rapid Antigen tests for those we deem high need, but you are also free to buy any of the 67 approved by Australia’s TGA.

“Where was the plan for hospital capacity? There was no update on how our hospitals will cope. What they should have said is this: We have assembled a daily monitor of ICU and hospital capacity. We will be reporting on our capacity day by day and will allow health professionals who want to work there to skip MIQ and home isolate under strict conditions.

“These are the questions Jacinda and her colleagues should have been able to answer today, and some of the answers she could have given if prepared. Sadly, we’ve been left with more questions than answers.”