11 Aug 2021

Act leader wants border restrictions eased at start of 2022

3:19 pm on 11 August 2021

ACT leader David Seymour wants border restrictions to begin easing at the start of next year, even if rates of vaccination aren't high enough.

ACT Party leader David Seymour

ACT Party leader David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Covid-19 health advisory group are suggesting the border is opened in phases, once the vaccination roll-out is complete.

They warn the likelihood of clusters and outbreaks will increase as restrictions ease, but that this could be managed if the government sticks with an elimination strategy.

The group of scientists say it's too soon to say how exactly restrictions should be eased, as it depends on the state of the pandemic at the time and how the vaccines are responding to new variants of the virus.

Seymour says the government needs to come up with a back-up plan to ensure restrictions can start to ease in 2022.

"If we can't have risk proportional safe reopening, with antigen testing, rapid testing, with good contact tracing and isolation - if all of that requires vaccination and if vaccination doesn't work then we're isolated forever, so clearly we have to have a plan B from vaccination being the endgame. And if we're not prepared to do it at the start of next year, then when are we prepared to do it?"

If the government wants to wait until herd immunity is reached - which the advisory group's report says is not achievable - to re-open the borders, it will never happen, Seymour said.

"The government should not keep the borders closed to protect people who choose not to be vaccinated. What is much more difficult is people who for a variety of medical reasons cannot be vaccinated."

He urged people to get vaccinated to protect those who can't.

National Party leader Judith Collins said the findings of the report were very clear.

"We've seen Professor Skegg's report and the answer to living in the world where there is Covid - and particularly this Delta variant and no doubt other ones - is to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate."

She said it provided quite a bit of detail, and the party would be seeking more answers from the government on its vaccine rollout plans.

"It's simply going to be really important and the rest of the world is obviously expecting this too. The fact we're I think about 126th in the world for vaccinations rollout pretty much indicates where we're at.

"We don't have any vaccination passport or anything else that we can point to. I've got a little card that tells my I was vaccinated on one day .... but basically it's a card that could be photocopied by anyone."

The party's Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said he expected there was a lot more modelling and other details that helped inform the report.

"Which we would expect to be released in due course. I hope tomorrow when we eventually hear from the prime minister about the government's direction of travel, so I suspect that will come out. Perhaps a little bit surprising that it didn't come out today."

He said New Zealand had not bothered yet to order any booster shots, when most other western countries had ordered hundreds of millions more doses for next year.

"I've been contacted by public health experts who are horrified at the fact that we haven't been bothered to order any boosters yet."

The government will formally respond to the advice tomorrow.

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