The Government had no alternative plan if its goal to eliminate Covid-19 failed:
The Government never produced a strategy for handling Covid-19 in New Zealand if it failed to eliminate an outbreak, Newsroom can reveal.
In response to an Official Information Act request from Newsroom, Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said his office held no information relating to a suppression strategy for Covid-19 or to any other strategy that wasn’t an elimination strategy. The request sought documents relating to other Covid-19 response strategies between July 2, 2020, when Hipkins became Minister of Health, and September 20, 2021, when Auckland moved down to Level 3 during the Delta outbreak.
“After an extensive search through this office’s records, I can confirm that there was no information provided to my office relating to any strategy that was not an elimination strategy during the period specified in your request,” Hipkins wrote.
University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said he was surprised to learn that the Government hadn’t developed a backup plan.
“I would think it would have been sensible to have a range of alternative scenarios and plan accordingly,” he told Newsroom.
“Once you had the Delta variant, it showed that viral evolution was going to continue and could result in big changes in the behaviour of the organism. All of the literature said this virus was going to be changing and I would have thought that, at the very least, you would want to have a plan after seeing what Delta was capable of.”
National Party Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said the Government put all its eggs in one basket by planning only for elimination.
“The Government just bet the house on elimination and assumed it would work. Even after Delta arrived in MIQ in April and into the community in August, the Government just assumed it would work,” he said.
“They really should have been working on backup plans. By the time Delta arrived in New Zealand and into the community, it had already spread to basically every other country.” . .
We’ve all been locked down – Auckland numerous times; businesses have failed, jobs have been lost, tens of thousands of citizens and residents have been locked out of the country and who knows how many others have been to afraid to go overseas for fear they wouldn’t be able to return?
Few people have died of, or even with, Covid-19 but how many people’s lives have been compromised or lost because diagnosis and treatment of other conditions were delayed? How many children will, or are already failing, to reach their potential because they haven’t been able to go to school? How many relationships have failed because partners have been kept apart, or forced to have too much time together?
The government’s failure to plan for the failure of its elimination goal has failed us all, at a very high cost to us all.