Time to establish Epidemic Response Unit

Wed, 08 Dec, 2021

“Sir Brian Roche, before Parliament’s Health Committee this morning, once again advocated for a specialised Epidemic Response Unit, an idea ACT has championed since last August”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“In our Wellbeing Approach to COVID-19 paper released on 20 August 2020, ACT called for a multi-disciplinary Epidemic Response Centre to bring together the best people from the public and private sectors and have a transparent relationship with government, which would set policy targets for the Unit.

“Sir Brian, under questioning, said he’d advocated for a ‘fully integrated pandemic preparedness and response unit’, as ACT has advocated, but it ‘hadn’t landed’ with Ministers or the public service.

“According to Sir Brian, the Government has been so busy managing the crisis with its current organisational settings that it can’t find time to reorganise.

“In his report Observations from the Recent Delta Outbreak and their Impact on Reconnecting New Zealanders, dated 23 September, Roche made the following observations:

‘…the current operating mode, in our view, does not have the necessary singular strategic oversight connecting Health with the wider system with a clear and single point of accountability and a fully integrated system.’

‘Much of the model still involves strength of personality…’

‘…the strategic oversight, inter-agency connectedness and leadership of the COVID-19 response need to be reconfigured under a fit-for-purpose COVID-19 agency/response unit that is able to better anticipate rather than being primarily in a state of reactivity…’

‘This type of leadership landscape leads to risks of gaps. As illustrated by the current outbreak, issues such as an overwhelmed early aggressive outbreak response and the lack of foresight in relation to testing at the Auckland boundary have been highlighted…’

‘…we cannot stress more urgently that the current organising framework is sub-optimal and will fail us if we aren’t able to adapt quickly enough…’

‘A fully integrated pandemic preparedness and response unit (the Unit)…should be a priority in order to optimise New Zealand’s response.’

“The COVID-19 response is hopeless because of how it’s organised.

“New Zealanders deserve a clear, coordinated response to COVID-19, not a Government that makes it up as it goes.”