1 Feb 2022

National Party calls for borders to open, frequent RAT tests in schools

5:43 pm on 1 February 2022

National is calling for a new strategy as New Zealand prepares for a wave of Omicron cases, including opening the border immediately to fully vaccinated New Zealanders and twice weekly rapid antigen testing in schools.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon talks to media, after giving a speech to business leaders in Queenstown.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon talks to media, after giving a speech to business leaders in Queenstown. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Party leader Christopher Luxon outlined the plan in a speech to business leaders in Queenstown, calling for a "change in mindset" in response to the Omicron variant.

He acknowledged the success of the Covid-19 response in 2020, but described last year as a "shambles". Luxon was speaking on the second day of the party's caucus retreat, where National's trying to "reset" and present itself as a credible alternative government.

The plan includes having tests available in pharmacies and supermarkets, which would help keep "communities stay safe by quickly identifying Covid and ensuring those with the virus stay at home".

Every school would be given rapid antigen tests (RATs) for twice weekly surveillance testing for all students, teachers and staff.

There are about 70,000 teachers and about 800,000 school students in New Zealand - however without knowing the numbers that would be needed, Luxon was still confident enough tests could be secured.

"The reality is it's very simple to do, other jurisdictions are doing it, why is it acceptable to do it in New South Wales and not New Zealand?"

National would also reduce isolation to seven days for identified cases and close contacts and scrap MIQ in a phased manner, saying the border settings no longer make sense: "its not compassionate, not fair and it's not kindness".

Vaccinated New Zealanders would be able to come into New Zealand and isolate for seven days, those not vaccinated would still have to go through MIQ; unvaccinated non-New Zealanders would not be allowed into the country for now.

"Soon, thousands of people with Omicron will be isolating at home while fully vaccinated Kiwi citizens who are overseas and don't have Covid are blocked from coming home."

National's Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop said under the elimination strategy "a lot of people would had said MIQ made sense".

"At the start of the pandemic, we didn't know what we were dealing with, what we didn't know about it was pretty scary and we ran that elimination strategy, and it worked and MIQ was broadly supported then.

"But now with Omicron sweeping the world and in New Zealand, the balance at the border is wrong and so we need to change our response accordingly."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs