25 Nov 2021

PM Jacinda Ardern: 'Throughout this pandemic one of the hardest things to do has been to plan'

12:53 pm on 25 November 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the focus now is on getting New Zealand's new Covid protection settings right domestically.

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Ardern confirmed that Auckland will start at the red light of the new traffic light alert level system on 3 December. Future changes to that level will depend on the rest of the country's status, she said.

"It will matter for Auckland what is happening with the outbreak and the impact of eased restrictions on the outbreak's growth."

The impact on health systems will also be important in determining alert level changes under the traffic lights.

"Now that we're easing restrictions we do need to see what impact that has on the growth of the outbreak."

Ardern did not want to weigh in on the leadership changes in the National Party today.

"I see this as an issue for the National Party."

She said her focus is on the pandemic.

"The most important lesson I've had in politics is on focusing on what's best for the New Zealand people," she said.

"I don't see this as a matter for Parliament. I see this as a matter for the National Party Caucus to deal with. I'll be continuing to focus on the pandemic and they can manage any leadership issues they have."

The government has announced todaythat rapid antigen testing will be rolled out widely soon.

Ardern said rapid antigen testing is a lot cheaper than the current PCR testing that is being used for clinics.

"They are very low cost relative to what we've been using. We will still use PCR testing as a tool in our response, in addition to rapid antigen testing."

Pricing and so forth will be determined by pharmacies and the Ministry of Health.

With the gradual end of MIQ announced and the opening of New Zealand's borders in 2022, Ardern said the focus is on giving NZ citizens abroad certainty, as they will be the first to return home without quarantine.

Those in Australia can return in mid-January and in most other countries in mid-February.

"We do want to ease carefully though," she said and New Zealand will see the impact made by those changes and take into account as the border opens.

"Throughout this pandemic one of the hardest things to do has been to plan," Ardern said.

"Our focus now is on getting the settings right domestically."

Hospitality opens on 3 December, and early openings by hairdressers and others using the new vaccine pass will make it easier for them to be rolled out in more places.

With the Auckland border, she says the strict requirements for transit have kept case numbers from being worse than they could have.

Legislation that will replace the current alert levels with the traffic light system passed its final reading in the House, with opposition parties criticising it as divisive and unduly rushed.

Ardern defended that passage and said the legislation still has checks and balances.

"We are still making sure that whilst we need to move quickly, we still have scrutiny as well."

"The orders still go through Parliamentary Select Committee. They are scrutinized by the opposition and we still maintain debate in the New Zealand Parliament on all these changes."

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