National Party MP
In the circumstances, National understands the need for this latest lockdown and we supported the Government’s initial decision to move New Zealand into Level 4 lockdown.
But National is also clear that if the vaccination rollout had been better and we had a higher vaccination rate – New Zealand has had the lowest rate in the OECD for many months now - we would’ve had more options than the blunt tool that is lockdown.
From here on, the vaccination programme needs to be more urgent and innovative because New Zealanders can’t afford to go into lockdown each time a case emerges in the community. At some point, as the rest of the world does, New Zealand will also need to open up. The fact almost 80 per cent of eligible Kiwis are not yet fully vaccinated is regrettable, especially when countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Singapore, and many others have vaccinated more than 60 per cent of their populations. Meanwhile, many frontline workers in critical roles like our local police, port workers and supermarket workers are yet to be vaccinated and should’ve been by now.
The Labour Government must immediately set an ambitious vaccine target – National has called for a 70 per cent or more target since March - and urgently work to meet this to avoid the social and financial costs of future lockdowns. Meanwhile, National urges the Government to tighten up key processes such as MIQ and scale up saliva testing, which was urgently recommended by Sir Brian Roche and Heather Simpson almost a year ago and which we have been calling for since.
We should also spare a thought for the hundreds of businesses, particularly smaller ones, throughout Tauranga, as we know only 55 per cent of the population can work in Level 4. Each day lockdown continues will be the breaking point for a few more of them. It was already tough going with skill shortages, increased shipping costs, delays, and a host of other factors. Sadly, this will be the final straw for some.