12 Aug 2020

Election campaigning suspended due to new Covid-19 alert

4:59 pm on 12 August 2020

Election campaigning has ground to a halt after a family caught Covid-19 from an unknown source.

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Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Auckland has gone into level 3 lockdown today for the next three days.

As a result, political parties are rushing to cancel events both inside and outside the super city.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said she would likely be based in Wellington for at least the next three days.

Meanwhile, National has cancelled all of today's campaign events and leader Judith Collins said a lot of work would need to be done over the coming days to figure out exactly what this latest case of community transmission will mean for the country.

"New Zealanders can be assured that National will be seeking an explanation and clear answers about the situation we now find ourselves in," she said.

Collins called on New Zealanders to follow the advice of health officials and do their part to stamp out the latest case of Covid-19 community.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was due to be campaigning in Levin and Masterton today, but Peters said "regrettably in these circumstances NZ First's campaign has been temporarily suspended".

The Green Party has suspended in-person campaigning subject to health advice.

And the ACT Party will meet today to discuss the future of its campaign.

ACT leader David Seymour said there would be enough time to ask why this had happened later, but right now the goal was to get on top of it before there was loss of life or further loss of livelihoods.

"As with the last lockdown, we all need to do the right thing to beat the virus as quickly as possible.

"We also need the government to play an effective, transparent and competent role."

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Act leader David Seymour. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Seymour said the government must be 100 percent open and transparent about all of the data, the options and the decision-making process.

"We have to hope that the government has made real progress in its preparedness to test and trace, we cannot afford for the initial three days to turn into a lockdown without end," he said.

Seymour wants the government to be more transparent about what is informing its alert level decision making.

He says businesses in particular will be feeling extremely anxious right now, and the best antidote for that anxiety is certainty.

"The government must bring New Zealanders into its confidence and treat us as adults by telling us what decisions it will be making and how it will be making them.

"What information does it require to come out of this level 3 and 2 respectively by Friday, because New Zealand businesses and households as they plan their futures right now cannot afford a rolling maul of surprises", he said.

Seymour says if the lockdown lasts beyond Friday the focus must urgently turn to mitigating the economic impacts.

He says any wage subsidy would need to be more tailored than during the last lockdown, and it would be vital to allow green grocers and butchers to open.

He says it is also important that non-Covid medical needs, such as cancer screening, do not fall by the wayside.

The government has given itself a "three day challenge" to prove that its contact tracing is up to gold standard, he says.

While he is hopeful rapid contact tracing would ensure that restrictions could be lifted after Friday, he thinks it is going to "be heroic".

Seymour says if level 3, or even level 2 restrictions remain in place beyond Friday, the general election should be delayed.

"Your meetings are limited to 100 people and people are supposed to be two metres apart. You can't have anything like the kind of political meetings that ACT has been having for the last few months", he said.

Seymour says it would not be a level playing field if Jacinda Ardern continues to front daily Covid press briefings and he believes she needs to take a step back and create more separation between her roles as incumbent prime minister and Labour leader.

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