Covid 19 coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand watching reopening experiments around world before deciding on plan
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is watching what happens as other countries “experiment” with reopening their borders to vaccinated travellers before deciding on what to do here.
Singapore, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have all recently unveiled plans around living with the virus in their communities to certain degrees.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to Covid-19 restrictions by July 19 despite surging case numbers and conceding there would be more deaths, an approach Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said would not occur here.
High vaccination rates there had seen the death rate drop substantially, but Johnson acknowledged there could still be 50,000 new cases detected daily once restrictions dropped.
Announcing the plan he said “we must learn to live with this virus”.
This week, Canada announced it would allow vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents to skip 14-day quarantine when entering the country.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday laid out a four-phase plan to reopen to the world, and Singapore has stated Covid will be treated like other endemic diseases such as flu.
Asked in the House by Act Party leader David Seymour what New Zealand’s equivalent to the Australian roadmap was, Ardern said Australia’s plan did not have the levels of vaccination or the timelines in which things would happen.
“Everything that we’re seeing around the world at the moment is experimental.
“At the moment, we don’t necessarily have an evidence and research base to draw on.
“Countries are trying new things as vaccines are rolled out.
“The advantage New Zealand has always had is that we’ve looked outwardly to the world, drawn on that evidence, and made decisions in New Zealand’s best interests.”
The UK plan was “not in keeping with the strategy New Zealand has had”, Ardern said.
Australia’s decisions “don’t have dates”, nor percentages for vaccines, she said.
“We have since May been talking about what our intentions are.”
If adopted here the Australian plan would also see, per capita, the number of people arriving into New Zealand greatly reduced.
“Our view is that we can manage the numbers we’ve had, and that is why we’ve had 150,000 people safely enter into New Zealand.
“We have carved our own path that has been right for New Zealand and, in my view, that is the reason why our economy and our health have been held in such high regard by others.”
Ardern also referenced comments made around reopening prior to the Budget in May, when she said the focus first would be on completing New Zealand’s vaccination plan, and having all those who wanted to, be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
Ardern said the Government also kept a close watch on new research and evidence, which was why they had created the Strategic Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group, chaired by Sir David Skegg.
“As we see some of that new and emerging evidence around the difference that both a combination of the vaccine and a change-up in public health measures will make, we will share our view on how that will change up our border settings.
“We won’t be in the current state that we’re in for ever. It will not be the case that we have 14 days of managed isolation for every single traveller.
“However, I’m not in a position right now where I would hedge our bets on the way that New Zealand will definitively manage it, beyond, for instance, getting in place our vaccine roll-out, which is the most important thing we can do to change up border controls.”
On Tuesday the Government also answered questions about more permanent purpose-built managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
“As we have more certainty around the way we’re likely to need to managed Covid into the future, that we will continue to look at the leasing arrangements we have into the future.
“That may well mean that we continue with some of our existing arrangements. It may involve more purpose-built. We’re keeping those options open.”
Seymour said a plan was needed to give more assurance to the public.
“Australian businesses and households can see how this thing ends, and when various freedoms will return. Our Government either lacks such a plan or thinks we are unworthy of reading it.
“We need a roadmap out of this. We can’t keep going through lockdowns forever.
“It’s time to start treating New Zealanders like adults. This Government has never been open and transparent but it’s not too late to start.”
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