Hon David Clark: Your health is our top priority

Opinion 13/03/2020

By David Clark, Minister of Health, Labour MP for Dunedin North.

On Thursday morning the World Health Organisation announced that the spread of COVID-19 is now classed as a global pandemic. I understand that people are worried but this isn’t a surprise. The Government has been planning for this, and we are ready to face the global health and economic challenges ahead. Your health is our top priority.

We’ve acted swiftly. Our pandemic plan has been active since January, and we have concrete and proven measures to deal with the virus. New Zealanders can also take comfort in the fact that we have a world class health system, and that the Minister of Finance has made it clear that when it comes to our health response to COVID-19 the Government will ensure the health sector has what it needs to respond.

The Government will ensure the health sector has what it needs to respond.

We responded quickly when the virus was discovered and were among one of the first countries to implement travel restrictions. This bought us valuable time. Since then, we have started a nationwide public health campaign, ensured all GPs have the right equipment in their clinics, and traced 100% of the people in close contact with the five New Zealanders with COVID-19.

As Australia looks to boost infrastructure spending in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, we have already got ahead of the curve with the announcement last year of our $12 billion infrastructure investment through the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

On top of that, we have made it easier for people to get MSD support, and we’re providing hardship grants. We’ve provided target help for affected industries like $11m to look for new tourism markets, $4m into targeted business advice in the regions, changing rules for seafood exporters.

We’re also looking into changes in provisional tax arrangements which will help businesses with cash flow. Further plans will be announced next week.

In times like this we need to all stand together, we all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19. So wash your hands thoroughly, cough into your elbow and stay home if you’re not feeling well. Our best protection against this virus is preventing the spread.

David Clark is Minister of Health and Labour MP for Dunedin North.