You’ve got to feel sorry for Aucklanders.
Level 2 is bad enough for the rest of us with the impact on businesses and the uncertainty about public events and private functions.
How much worse if must be for Aucklanders at Level 3 – again.
It’s easy to say with hindsight, shifting the city out of Level 3 after only three days was a mistake.
There’s no point looking back to cast blame but we must learn from what’s gone wrong and look forward to how to do much better.
National is urging the Government to get on top of the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland by adopting a five-point plan for managing community cases, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti say.
National’s five-point plan for managing community outbreaks:
- Introduce rapid antigen testing – nasal swab tests that return results in 15 minutes.
- Roll out high intensity, well-staffed testing stations across Papatoetoe and at every single location of interest
- Conduct higher intensity wastewater testing at suburb and sub-suburb levels in Papatoetoe
- Set aside enough vaccines for all border and port workers, then priority vaccinate South Auckland
- Increase monitoring of people who are required to self-isolate, including spot checks
Mr Bishop says New Zealand should follow the example of Taiwan where managed isolation at home comes with strict protocols, such as random phone calls and requests to confirm their location through a video call or supplying an image.
“The high trust approach we take to self-isolation in this country comes with risks, as we’ve seen over the past few days.
“New Zealanders have largely done a great job of following self-isolation advice but it’s unlikely we’ll ever have 100 per cent compliance, and it’s extremely frustrating when a small number of people don’t follow the rules.
“Monitoring of self-isolators should be ramped up to guarantee compliance. This means regular spot checks, and if no contact is made within 24 hours then police are involved.”
The Government also needs to roll out more staff across more testing sites to cut down waiting times and make it easier for people to visit a testing station, Mr Bishop says.
“Long queues and wait times will discourage people from getting tested. We need to fix this.”
Dr Reti says the Government should also introduce rapid antigen testing in New Zealand. These nasal swab tests provide results in 15 minutes and are common overseas.
“Rapid antigen testing would allow us to test large numbers of New Zealanders, quickly. Those who test positive would then have their results confirmed by a standard PCR test.
“These tests are common in other countries like the United States where there are FDA-approved home test kits for less than $15.
“They are especially good for giving quick answers and peace of mind to people who are showing symptoms of illness and want to know if they have Covid-19.”
Rapid antigen tests would be an added layer of testing alongside the standard nasal PCR tests already being done here. Our Government already considers them reliable enough to accept them as a pre-departure test for arrival into New Zealand.
Dr Reti says there should be daily wastewater inspection at ports, and at a more granular level in Papatoetoe than just the main interceptors.
The Government should also set aside enough vaccines for all border and port workers, then priority vaccinate South Auckland, starting with Papatoetoe High school followed by wider Papatoetoe in parallel with border and health workers.
“South Auckland presents an increased risk of transmission due to the density of its population and the number of border workers who reside there,” Dr Reti says.
“We understand the need to prioritise other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, for vaccination but stopping outbreaks at the source is also a form of protection of these groups.”
That we’ve been able to enjoy a summer as near to normal as it could be with the border closed looks more and more as if it was due to good luck than good management.
We can’t keep relying on luck.
None of the suggested improvements National is suggesting look difficult and whatever the cost it would be less expensive than shutting down Auckland and restricting what the rest of us can do, again.