Ensuring Covid-19 doesn’t get past the border has widespread support, but it’s time for a plan that keeps it there and lets more people in:
The Prime Minister needs to stop misrepresenting the border issue and tell New Zealanders what her strategy is to protect the economy long-term, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.
“The Government’s clumsy and incompetent management of our quarantine procedures means it is impossible for New Zealand’s border to open tomorrow, next week or even next month.
“That simply would not be safe.
“However, New Zealanders also need to know how and when the border will progressively be reopened, because not doing that is untenable.
“New Zealanders deserve the highest standards to protect them from getting Covid-19, both at the border and when it comes to tracking and tracing in the event of cases in the community.
“We need to know when those standards will be in place so that New Zealanders have confidence to progressively and safely open the border and grow the economy.
“Locking down what’s left of the economy and waiting for a vaccine isn’t an option.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response ignores the issue:
. . .”It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19.
“In some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they are not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month,” Ardern said.
“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point, frankly, is dangerous.” . . .
No-one is asking for the borders to open at this point.
A lot of people, businesses and organisations are asking for information on the plan for when and how the borders will open at some point in the future.
Farmers and contractors need experienced workers, principals facing teacher shortages are looking for staff, secondary schools and tertiary institutions want to be able to host foreign students again . . .
None of these is asking for anything that would risk Covid-19 getting past the border, but all want to know the government’s plan for safe entry of more than returning New Zealanders and the heavily restricted number and categories of people deemed essential workers so they can plan.
Any half competent government would have had people planning ahead months ago.
The omnishambles at the border that required the military and another minister to take over running it, shows that wasn’t done.
The current situation needs a strong focus but the inability for someone in government to look further ahead while others deal with immediate priorities reinforces Todd Muller’s observation there are three or four competent ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs in Cabinet.
Had there been anyone with more ability in any of those chairs, perhaps one of the three deputy Health Ministers for example, Chris Hipkins who already had a very heavy workload wouldn’t have been the only one capable of taking over as Health Minister yesterday after David Clark resigned.
That appointment highlights the shallowness of the Cabinet pond and explains why Muller’s request for details of the strategy for opening the border is being ignored.
There doesn’t appear to be anyone in the government with the time and ability to plan that far ahead which is a very serious problem because as the adage says, if you fail to plan then you’ll plan to fail.