“As New Zealand finally opens up to the rest of the world, the Government will find its nonsensical COVID restrictions for New Zealanders are almost impossible to enforce on tourists” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“Our rules for vaccine passes, isolation, importing Rapid Antigen Tests, and QR codes will look quaint to people from countries that have already moved on, and trying to enforce them will only show how nonsensical our own rules are.
“We will now have a situation where a tourist with a negative test is free to get the first taxi out of Auckland Airport, but a household contact has to isolate for seven days. Opening the border makes our isolation rules look stupid, because they are.
“We currently require people to show a vaccine pass to go to a restaurant. As ACT has argued, there is no longer a reason for the traffic light system. If the Government could provide a reason, is it worth the rigmarole of ensuring foreign vaccine passes are recognised across the New Zealand system?
“I asked Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield why we still have vaccine passes at the Health Committee last week, they could not say. If there’s no good reason to have a policy we should not have it.
“At 97 per cent, mandates won’t make more people get vaccinated. The growth of cases is exponential, vaccinations mandates are not affecting it anymore. People who are unvaccinated can still go to the supermarket and catch COVID, so the benefit of segregating them from other activities for their own good and that of the hospital system is limited.
“Technically every tourist will be required to download the NZ COVID Tracer App and every business required to display a QR code. However, you can’t be a contact unless you share a household so this policy is pointless. Are we going to make every tourist download the NZ COVID Tracer App or write their name and address down at every business they visit for no reason, or just dump the policy?
“The New Zealand Government persists with its absurd ban on Rapid Antigen tests that are not on the Ministry of Health’s list. Are we going to make sure that Customs searches every tourist’s luggage to make sure they are not bringing non approved Rapid Antigen Tests? If tourists can bring in whatever COVID tests they like, why not New Zealanders?
“We are constantly told that restrictions will be lifted, and we will get control of our lives back when the peak is reached.
“Mandates only make sense to encourage vaccination, prevent the spread by segregating people or to reduce hospitalisation.
“The rest of the world is moving on and dropping restrictions. We desperately need tourists to want to come to here – why would they choose New Zealand if they face restrictions when they arrive when they could go to another country and enjoy their holiday without restrictions?
ACT’s Move On plan proposes:
• Scanning and contact tracing: Contact tracing creates relatively minor costs, but also delivers negligible benefits because it does not reach enough potential contacts or reach them fast enough in light of Omicron’s higher transmissibility. It results in some people isolating because they are “pinged” but often not in time to prevent them from transmitting the virus. The resulting isolation that comes from being pinged is a growing disaster for business and supply chains. The requirement for businesses to display codes and have people scan in should be dropped, along with the requirement to contact trace cases, because it’s just not working. Dropping these requirements would be an important symbol that we are moving on and getting our way of life back. It should be done immediately.
• Mask requirements: Well-worn and high-quality masks can help prevent spread. Mask wearing likely has significant benefits for reducing the spread of Omicron, although this is sensitive to mask quality. While extremely irritating, it is one of the few current policies where it is reasonable to believe that the benefits outweigh the costs.
• Boosters: Relative to a two-shot regimen, booster shots significantly reduce the likelihood of death and serious illness due to COVID-19. There is a limited cost. Boosters are an important way to reduce the costs of the inevitable spread of Omicron through the community. Nonetheless, given most of the benefits of booster doses go to those who get boosted, there is little case for mandating them.
• Vaccine requirements: It is difficult to justify a vaccination mandate purely on the grounds that it reduces hospitalisation risk for unvaccinated people themselves and thus pressure on the health system. This effect has already reached saturation. Unless a new requirement for boosters is introduced, mandating is having negligible effect on vaccine uptake and should be dropped immediately.
• Traffic Light Framework: The Government has dashed large events and hospitality businesses at enormous cost with little consideration for what the benefits might be. If they have cost-benefit analysis for Omicron, they have not presented it. We have been asked to accept these restrictions with no idea whether they will leave us better off or by how much. Unless the Government can show the benefits of restricting large events in an Omicron environment, in terms of reducing the peak demand on hospital capacity, the Traffic Light System should be dumped immediately so we can all move on.
“It’s time to move on. It’s time to welcome back the tourists we desperately need. It’s time to get on with our lives.”