14 Jul 2021

PM speaks about Covid-19, Fiji and Pharmac funding

2:36 pm on 14 July 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to media after a speech at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs conference.

Ardern spoke at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs conference in Wellington this morning.

She spoke on a range of issues including, Covid-19, vaccines, Fiji and Pharmac funding.

Pharmaceutical companies are already considering whether booster shots will be needed, Ardern said, and the issue she raised today was pushing for an equitable rollout of vaccines around the world.

Having a shortage in one area would allow the virus to spread and variants to increase, she said, raising the risks.

She said New Zealand will continue advocating globally and regionally to support vaccine rollout.

She said the message for New Zealanders is that while demand for MIQ is at a high, demand will inevitably drop over time. The government is also looking at ways to avoid any gaming of the bookings system.

She said the crew aboard the Viking Bay fishing ship should not have been kept at sea. "We do have to provide facilities and care ... that is part of being a member of the international community."

On Fiji, Ardern said what is happening in Fiji is devastating and she has asked MFAT to contact officials there again and offer specific medical equipment that may be needed.

She said much of the government's focus has been in boosting the relationships with the Pacific, before looking at the wider Indo-Pacific. She says while some jurisdictions use the term Indo Pacific in an exclusionary sense, New Zealand does not.

Asked about Pharmac's continued rejection of funding for a drug that can treat the RSV virus which is afflicting babies around the country, Ardern said politicians simply do not make those funding decisions and she has not been briefed on it.

The prime minister announced yesterday she would be will be chairing an extra APEC meeting at the leaders level focused on Covid-19, being held for the first time.

Asked about the amount of coal the country imports, she says New Zealand must continue to build resilience in the electricity system.

"We've got a very high rate of renewable electricity generation in NZ but ... in the case of hydro if we have a dry year then we've got a gap."

She said solutions had to be found to fill that gap

Labour MP Louisa Wall broke ranks when she went on record to say her own government needs to do more to counter what she calls the slave labour trade in China. Ardern distanced herself from the comments saying Wall was speaking as a member of the IPU rather than a member of the government.

China has come under increasing pressure over its treatment of Uyghurs, which New Zealand's partners in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan have condemned.

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