2 Mar 2021

Business leaders demand government's Covid-19 plan be made public

12:18 pm on 2 March 2021

Some of the country's most powerful business leaders are demanding the government lay out its Covid-19 plan, including how it is measuring its current strategy and its plans to get the border open.

Central Auckland at 9am on the first morning of the latest level 3 lockdown.

Auckland streets on the first day of the 28 February level 3 lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Robert Smith

The group includes the chairs of Auckland Airport, The Warehouse and SkyCity.

The group is calling for clarity and openness, saying the details need to be made available beyond government circles.

Mercury chair Prue Flacks said major New Zealand businesses would welcome the opportunity to assist the government in its longer-term planning.

"We've seen the open and transparent approach taken by Australia on its vaccine roll-out plan, the launch last week by the United Kingdom government of a clear plan to manage a path out of its current lockdown and the ongoing success in Taiwan of avoiding lockdowns through using technology to manage home isolation.

"It will be beneficial for all New Zealand if the Ministry of Health and other agencies take an open and transparent approach to the development of a path towards sustainable virus management."

Air New Zealand planes parked up at Auckland Airport during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Air New Zealand planes parked up at Auckland Airport in September 2020. Photo: Supplied/ Air NZ

Specifically the group has asked for a clear explanation of the key metrics, thresholds and milestones officials are tracking to judge the government's performance.

It wanted more information about New Zealand's vaccine contracts, including when they are arriving, how many and who will get them.

It also wanted the country's testing capacity and strategy, including any plans for enhanced community, workplace and surge testing options, the inclusion of additional testing technology such as saliva PCR tests and any other changes to the testing regime, published.

And it wanted to know about any plans for a more automated approach to tracking and tracing, including health passports and other technology.

Rob Campbell, who chairs SkyCity, Tourism Holdings and Summerset, and is chancellor of Auckland University of Technology, said it was time to prepare for a future which managed Covid-19.

This included government transparency in the plan to open the border to allow business to connect with customers, international students to return and safe travel to Australia and the Pacific Islands.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he would look into the business leaders' requests.

Robertson said the business community had been heavily involved in the response to date, including the vaccination programme.

Auckland Airport and Chorus chair Patrick Strange said the most recent community cases proved the virus was now firmly part of how New Zealanders lived and worked.

"While widespread vaccination will mean the pandemic phase will pass, the virus will continue to be a risk that threatens poor health outcomes and overwhelming the health system.

"As a group we share the strong desire of the New Zealand business community to support the country's response to Covid-19 in any way we can."

Strange told Morning Report the business leaders strongly supported the government's efforts but wanted more information on a long-term strategy.

He said one example was saliva testing, which several private companies were using and the Ministry of Health was looking at it. "But we don't have the information. Well, this is months on - we needed to have a strategy when that strong recommendation was made and all work together on it and we'd all be in a better place."

Strange said Covid-19 would not be eliminated worldwide, and New Zealand was going to have to manage it. More investment was needed "right now" in better tracking and and tracing technology.

"What we're trying to do is to get into a better place in a year, so we're not just in a foxhole, fighting, still having the battle - we've actually won the war."

This is an official government COVID-19 announcement.

On 28 February, the Auckland region moved to Covid-19 Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. This is for a period of seven days. Further community cases of Covid-19 have been identified in the Auckland Region. If you are in Auckland, stay home where possible, and follow Alert Level 3 guidelines. This will stop the transmission of Covid-19 and save lives. For more information on the alert levels go to covid19.govt.nz.

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