COVID-19: Opposition accuses Government of being unprepared for Omicron as New Zealand heads into red traffic light setting – Newshub

Opposition parties are accusing the Government of being slow and unprepared as New Zealand heads into the red traffic light setting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Sunday morning that all of Aotearoa will shift into the setting as a result of an Omicron outbreak in the community.

Going into red means tighter restrictions on gatherings and events – especially for the unvaccinated and businesses that refuse to use vaccine passports, and makes it mandatory to wear a face-covering in numerous settings.

National leader Christopher Luxon says the Government’s “lack of preparation” for Omicron has left New Zealand worse off than we should be.

“Rather than spending the last month urgently boosting as many people as possible, rolling out vaccinations for 5-11-year-olds and buying stocks of rapid tests, the Government went into ‘go slow’ mode over summer,” he said after the Government’s announcement.

Luxon says New Zealand has been too slow on vaccines and boosters, and hasn’t got ready for rapid testing – calling it a “stunning indictment on the Government’s lack of planning and lack of urgency”.

“Until recently, rapid antigen tests were illegal and they are still extremely hard to come by now. New Zealand companies are waiting weeks for permission to import them while in other countries like Australia, you can walk into the supermarket and buy one off the shelf,” he says.

“We need to protect the vulnerable. We should inundate rest homes, retirement villages and at-risk communities with boosters.

“And we need to get defences and mitigations in place. We should vastly increase the availability of rapid tests, urgently upgrade ICU capacity, and ensure we have stocks of the treatments we need.”

ACT leader David Seymour accuses the Government of “presenting spin over substance” with its response to Omicron.

“As with Delta, the Government appears to have learned nothing from watching other countries battle Omicron,” he says in a statement.

“We are going into Omicron with the same testing approach we’ve had throughout the pandemic. Rapid antigen tests remain banned outside specific government programs, and the Government clearly does not have the stock.

“The booster rollout has not been targeted at those most vulnerable, and there is no measurement or reporting on who is most vulnerable and whether they’ve been boosted. The true demand on hospital capacity will not be defined by how many people are boosted, but how many vulnerable people are boosted.”

Seymour also has harsh words for our “unworkable” isolation rules, compulsory mask-wearing policies, home care regime, and “illogical” approach to the border.

Meanwhile, the Green Party says it supports the Government’s decision to move to red, but says its success will depend on the support for the most vulnerable.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has continuously shone a light on the inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says the Green Party’s COVID-19 spokesperson Dr Elizabeth Kerekere.

“Right now we need to work together and focus on the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities. That includes Māori and Pacific people and those who are immunocompromised, as well as those who cannot work from home and will continue to work with the public as Omicron spreads.”

The Green Party is calling on the Government to prioritise:

  • Māori and Pacific providers in the rollout of the vaccination to children over the age of five years and those eligible for their booster
  • Mandatory ventilation standards for workplaces and fund schools to meet these standards as quickly as possible
  • The procurement and distribution of N95 masks, or an equally effective equivalent. These higher quality masks must be freely available for the most vulnerable, including people who interact with the public as part of their job
  • Distribute rapid antigen testing as an additional screening tool to those most at risk

The Green Party is also urging the Government to review and consider:

  • The viability of regional borders, particularly in areas where the spread of Omicron could impact Māori and Pacific people
  • Limits on indoor gatherings
  • An urgent funding boost for additional intensive care (ICU) beds in hospitals nationwide, and investment in training healthcare workers