21 Aug 2021

Covid-19: National criticises government's handling of latest outbreak

1:48 pm on 21 August 2021

The gloves are now off, with accusations from the National Party about the government's handling of the latest outbreak.

National leader Judith Collins 17/02/21

Judith Collins says the government has made a series of mistakes which is "extremely disappointing" more than 18 months into the pandemic. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

New Zealand's in lockdown because of a border failure, and "nearly 80 percent of the country has still not been fully vaccinated," opposition leader Judith Collins says.

"The Labour government claimed last year we were 'at the front of the queue'. Given what we now know, this was at best naïve and delusional and at worst, a complete lie."

She accuses the government of dropping the ball on a number of fronts: being slow to sign a sign a contract with Pfizer, approve use of the vaccine and order doses, including any booster shots for next year.

"We are in lockdown because the government did not act with urgency to protect New Zealanders. Their complacency and inability to ensure supply and delivery of the vaccine roll-out has left New Zealanders as sitting ducks; completely vulnerable to the Delta variant when it inevitably got into the community," Collins says.

"It is not enough for the prime minister to lock us in our homes and speak from the podium once a day. New Zealanders don't need sermons, we need vaccines in arms right now."

Collins says the government has made a series of mistakes and it is "extremely disappointing" more than 18 months into the pandemic.

"New Zealanders are right to be very frustrated. We understand we need to have a level 4 lockdown because of the seriousness of the situation ... that is taken as a given.

"But what is not acceptable, is the government has been absolutely warned about this situation for many months, then only now talking about bringing in, for instance, saliva testing and rapid antigen testing ... it's like they've been asleep at the wheel and complacent and sitting back and saying 'aren't we clever?' when ultimately, we're not."

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield yesterday revealed he had advised Cabinet to extend the lockdown in Auckland and possibly the Coromandel beyond seven days.

Collins says the government needs to give people more certainty.

"The lockdown in Auckland, I don't think there will be many people who don't think that will be extended ... unless there's a reason not to extend it, I can't imagine that people will think that it's going to be anything other than extended.

"People aren't stupid, they understand this is a highly transmissible variant. So people do need certainty, they need certainty about their lives, their work, their businesses."

The ACT Party's calling for either Parliament to sit next week, or the Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) be reinstated.

"We have a workable proposal on the table that a beefed-up select committee with an opposition chair and majority could become a de-facto ERC with minimal admin," ACT leader David Seymour says.

"While we cannot discuss the outcome of Business Committee, media reports quote Speaker Trevor Mallard saying 'It is unlikely that the House will sit next week, but no such decision has been taken'.

"Is this about safety, or avoiding questions?

"Our bottom line is democratic accountability. The people elected a parliament, and they all deserve their voices heard, not just those who voted for the current government [or those that the government] chooses to listen to," Seymour says.

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