The National Party has launched a plan to open the country safely, and let us get back to normal life:
Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins today launched National’s comprehensive plan to tackle Covid-19, end lockdowns and reopen New Zealand to the world.
Titled ‘Opening Up’, National’s plan outlines a pathway to avoid nationwide lockdowns and then allow most fully vaccinated travellers to and from New Zealand to travel much more easily, either without any isolation at all, or with seven days at home.
“The Government has taken its eye off the Covid-19 ball in 2021,” Ms Collins says.
“New Zealand started the year in a good position but the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world for most of this year and a lack of planning meant we were forced into a long lockdown in August and September, one that is still ongoing in Auckland.
“Instead of investing in contact tracing, ICU capacity and purpose-built MIQ, the Government frittered the Covid Response Fund away on art therapy, cameras on fishing boats, and Three Waters reform.
“The plan outlines ten steps we need to take, such as supercharging the vaccine rollout, buying vaccine boosters and next generation treatments, using saliva testing and rapid antigen tests and building purpose built quarantine.
“It is imperative we reach a milestone of 70-75 per cent of the 12 and above population to stop socially and economically damaging nationwide lockdowns.
“The Government has no real plan beyond a belated admission that vaccination is important. The Prime Minister says there is no vaccine target while Ministers throw around numbers willy-nilly.
“The Prime Minister also says her ‘reconnection’ ideas are still government policy while her COVID-19 Minister says they are being reconsidered.
“A 150 person trial for businesspeople to self-isolate at home before Christmas isn’t a plan, it’s an insult.
“Kiwis have done the hard yards. They have willingly followed harsh lockdown measures and other Covid-19 restrictions and, increasingly, they have been vaccinated for the common good. It’s time for them to be offered a vision and a plan about how their hard work will pay off.
“New Zealanders now have a clear plan from National. Delta is here, it may not be possible to eliminate it, and it would almost inevitably arrive into the community again. Whatever happens, we need to reopen to the world and National’s plan outlines how we can do that.
“Once we reach a milestone of 85 per cent of the 12 and above population, National believes we should start to allow fully vaccinated from low risk and medium risk travellers to come to New Zealand without going through MIQ. Non-citizens and non-permanent residents who are not vaccinated would be prohibited from travel to New Zealand.
“National’s plan would reunite Kiwi families split apart overseas, allow New Zealanders to travel overseas for business and pleasure, boost tourism and international education, and end the outrageous human lottery that is the MIQ debacle.
“Under National, Kiwis can come home for Christmas. Under Labour, they can’t.”
The plan has 10 steps for suppression of Covid:
The time will soon come for New Zealand to pivot from an elimination strategy to one of vigorous suppression, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“New Zealand is at a tipping point. Delta is in the country right now and may never leave. Even the Government admits it may not be possible to get cases back to zero and if we do Delta will be back again anyway.
“The Government is being intellectually dishonest in maintaining the fiction that borders can reopen while New Zealand simultaneously maintains an elimination strategy. In a world with Delta, that is impossible.
“National is the only major party being upfront with New Zealanders. The time will soon come when we need to pivot to vigorous suppression of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
“This is a strategy where New Zealand aims to keep the number of Covid-19 cases very low, but not necessarily at zero. There will likely be cases of infection under this strategy, but the aim is to rapidly respond when they occur and minimise the number of people infected.
“Once we reach a milestone of 85 per cent of the country vaccinated, vigorous suppression becomes possible when supplemented with National’s ten steps to tackle Covid-19.
“National has outlined ten steps we urgently need to take to respond to Covid-19 and set ourselves up to begin to reconnect with the world. They are:
- Supercharge the vaccine rollout
- Order vaccine boosters
- Upgrade our contact tracing capability
- Roll out saliva testing at the border and in the community
- Roll out rapid tests for essential workers and in the community
- Create a dedicated agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri, to manage our Covid-19 response based in Manukau not Wellington
- Build purpose-built quarantine facilities
- Launch a digital app for vaccination authentication
- Invest in next-generation Covid treatments
- Prepare our hospitals and expand ICU capacity
“These 10 steps are important measures New Zealand needs to take to evolve our response away from lockdowns and help us open up to the world.
“If we implement these steps, we have options for our future. Kiwis can then look to reunite with family, travel overseas for business and pleasure and we can welcome tourists and students for international education.
“Once we reopen to the world, the future is in the hands of New Zealanders.”
One of the reasons we keep having to lockdown is fear of overwhelming the health system. An important part of National’s plan is to strengthen the health system:
National’s Covid-19 Plan, ‘Opening Up’ includes a strong priority on improving our hospitals, expanding our ICU capacity and funding treatments for Covid-19, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti and Associate Health spokesperson Simon Watts say.
Dr Reti says New Zealanders did the hard yards last year to stamp out Covid-19 and expected the Government to invest wisely in the health system to prepare it for future outbreaks.
“Instead of investing in ICU capacity, the Government frittered the Covid-19 Response Fund away and has focused on restructuring the entire health system in the middle of a global pandemic.
“The number of ICU beds has actually fallen since the end of April 2020 through to September 2021, no new ICU bed spaces have been provisioned since Delta first appeared in MIQ and urgent alterations had to be made at the start of the recent outbreak to hospital wards in Auckland.
“In the first three weeks of the recent outbreak 62,829 inpatient procedures were cancelled. A delayed procedure can have a significant impact on a person’s health and their ability to recover once the surgery does proceed. In some cases, delaying a procedure is putting a life at risk,” Dr Reti says.
Mr Watts says National’s plan involves urgently implementing a specialist healthcare workforce migration plan.
“We would select the 3000 doctors and nurses out of the expression of interest pool and process them urgently. We would also prioritise and fast-track resident applications for critical healthcare workers, setting aside dedicated MIQ spaces if required.
“National would offer conditional residence class visas upon arrival to specialist, experienced nurses who have the qualifications and experience needed to immediately start working in New Zealand.
“We would also fast-track the building of new hospital wards to increase bed capacity. In Auckland, there are business cases for projects at Waitakere Hospital that could be progressed immediately,” Mr Watts says.
National’s Plan also invests in next generation Covid-19 treatments.
New Zealand is now well behind other countries in approving and ordering exciting new Covid-19 treatments like Ronapreve and Sotrovimab. These monoclonal antibody treatments are used to treat Covid-19 and have shown real promise in clinical trials.
“Ronapreve has been licensed for use in 20 countries and the EU has bought 55,000 doses. Sotrovimab has just been approved for use in Australia, which has bought 7700 doses,” Dr Reti says.
“New Zealand has not bought any doses of either treatment or approved them for use.
“National would establish a ring-fenced and dedicated Covid-19 Treatment fund from within the Covid-19 Response fund, and task Pharmac with negotiating purchase agreements with a variety of manufacturers,” Dr Reti says.
“National wants New Zealanders to enjoy more of the freedoms they have before the pandemic hit. To do this we must make sure our health system is robust enough to both deal with people who may fall ill with Covid-19 and continue day-to-day operations,” Mr Watts says.
New Zealanders can’t travel for fear they won’t be able to get back into the country and very, very few who want to return can. National’s plan allows vaccinated travel:
National’s plan to reopen New Zealand would reunite Kiwi families, allow New Zealanders to travel overseas for business and pleasure, boost tourism and international education, and end the depressing and outrageous human lottery that is the MIQ debacle, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“Once New Zealand reaches a milestone of 85 per cent of the aged 12 and above population fully vaccinated, we should start to safely reopen to the world. 85 per cent would give us one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.
“Alongside the public health measures outlined in our plan, a milestone of 85 per cent means we can manage Covid-19 coming through the border.
“National’s reopening plan is based on a traffic light system and prioritises fully vaccinated travellers. Non-citizens and non-permanent residents who are not vaccinated would be banned from travelling to New Zealand.
“The low-risk (green) pathway is for travel from jurisdictions where there is either no or little cases of Covid-19, and where vaccination rates are above 80 per cent.
“Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry. Assuming all tests are negative they would be free to enter New Zealand without any isolation.
“In the first instance we expect this to apply to travellers to and from Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT, the Cook Islands and possibly Taiwan.
“The medium-risk (orange) pathway is travel from jurisdictions where Covid-19 is spreading but under control, and where vaccination rates are above 50 per cent. Judgments would be made by National’s proposed dedicated Covid-19 agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri.
“Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry.
“They would then be required to spend seven days in home isolation and encouraged to take rapid tests which would be provided for free upon arrival. Enforcement would be via spot checks, and the possible use of digital monitoring apps like Singapore’s ‘Homer’ app.
“We expect this to apply to travellers to and from NSW, Victoria, Singapore, the USA, the UK and many European countries.
“People who test positive either at ports of entry or in the community would either be required to isolate at home or in purpose-built quarantine, with assessments made by public health teams.
“Under this plan, Kiwis coming through the green and orange pathways would be able to come home by Christmas.
“Kiwis have done the hard yards, they’ve willingly followed harsh lockdown measures and other restrictions. It’s time they’re offered a vision for the future and a plan for how this hard work has paid off. National’s plan does just that.”
Tens of thousands of New Zealanders can’t come home, immigrants with essential skills can’t get residency and people whose skills we desperately need can’t get MIQ spaces. National’s plan seizes immigration opportunities:
Opening up to the world doesn’t just give Kiwis the opportunity to come home, but it also gives New Zealand opportunities to attract talent from overseas, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.
“As other countries gradually recover from the effects of Covid-19, a global bidding war for talent has emerged. Almost every advanced economy other than New Zealand has begun deploying aggressive tactics to attract skilled workers.
“Before New Zealand can do the same thing we must fix our broken immigration system.
“We currently have huge delays in processing visas resulting in a years-long backlog of residency applications, and a frozen residency pool is leaving many of our critical workers stuck in immigration limbo. They can’t access KiwiSaver or buy a house, they’re fed up and choosing to leave. It’s clear we’re in a crisis.
“Unlike the Government, National is planning for the future. Immigration will be critical to help resource our health system to deal with any future Covid-19 cases and help our economy bounce back from the effects of the pandemic.”
To resource our health system National would:
- Instruct immigration officials to urgently reopen the frozen Skilled Migrant Category visa expressions of interest pool and prioritise processing residence applications for critical healthcare workers
- Offer residence class visas on arrival to specialist nurses with the qualifications, skills and experience to allow them to immediately start working in New Zealand
To help our economy bounce back National would:
- Create a pathway to residence for those migrants who have stuck with us through the Covid-19 pandemic
- Reopen the expressions of interest pool and process these applications with urgency
- Create a fast-tracked, streamlined process for residence applications to quickly clear the backlog
- Offer conditional residence on arrival for highly-sought skilled workers
- Implement a traffic light model for people arriving from overseas
Ms Stanford says National understands how important it is we rebuild the reputation of our immigration sector.
“With the world competing for global talent to help their fight against Covid-19 and support their economic recovery, we need to make sure we don’t lose our critical workers to other countries, while at the same time focus on attracting the best talent from overseas.
“If we want the best, we need to be the best. Offering a clear pathway to permanent residency will make sure New Zealand remains an attractive destination for skilled migrants to come and work at time when we need them more than ever.”
Labour has spent 18 months saying can’t, National’s plan shows what we could do and how we could do it, and do it safely.
National’s Opening UP plan is here.