Prime Minister needs an honest conversation on eradication

Fri, 01 Oct, 2021

“The Prime Minister’s strategy of eradicating COVID-19 and hiding behind the oceans is finished. She needs to stop fudging and confront reality on behalf of New Zealand, “says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Every day of delusion increases the chance of COVID deaths. We need to prepare for the invasion and minimise harm from COVID-19 within New Zealand. If the Prime Minister pretends we’re still eradicating then she’s not preparing to minimise harm when eradication fails. 

“If you can’t confront reality, there’s no chance of dealing with it. The Prime Minister needs to accept what’s happening and explain what the plan is for testing, tracing, treating, and vaccinating. Now, none of those responses are prepared for what’s coming.

“COVID is now circulating despite Alert Level 3 because too many people aren’t following the rules. They are showing up for non-COVID hospital care, testing positive for COVID, then going out to spread it instead of isolating. There are widespread reports of people refusing to isolate and breaking the rules. 

“We are in a catch-22. The old strategy doesn’t work anymore. The new strategy isn’t ready. When will the Prime Minister accept that? She’s becoming less and less believable.

Jacinda Ardern should admit the strategy has failed and lay out what happens next. ACT’s COVID 3.0 plan lays out how that should happen in five steps:

1. Recognise that eradication no longer stacks up. We must move to a policy of harm minimisation. This policy should aim to reduce transmission, hospitalisation, and death from COVID at the least possible cost of overall wellbeing.
2. Move from isolating whole cities to isolating only those who it makes sense to isolate… those who are medically vulnerable and require special protection, those who have recently arrived in New Zealand and are privately isolating, and those who have tested positive as part of widespread surveillance testing.
3. Move from chronic fear and uncertainty and get on a clear path to restoring freedom. We should settle when the vaccine rollout is ‘complete’ and aim to get Kiwis home for Christmas.
4. Move from a ‘government knows best’ approach to an approach of openness, and host all in ‘sprints’. In each sprint, the business community and all of society are invited to help reach clearly identified goals of lower transmission rates, hospitalisations, and deaths, in time for reopening.
5. The entire tone of New Zealand’s COVID response should shift from fear and a singular focus on public health to a focus on maximising overall wellbeing.

"That’s what leadership and plan looks like, but people are waiting and the Prime Minister still isn’t telling the truth."