ACT Leader David Seymour
ACT Leader David Seymour - Credit: Getty Images

The Government had one job - ACT Leader David Seymour

Opinion 18/08/2020

This Op-ed is written by the leader of ACT Party David Seymour

OPINION: The Government had one job.

I called around some businesses in my electorate on Friday. One butcher told me his sales were down 80%, another business it won’t bother operating during Level 3 because it’s just not worth it. Stories of butchers crying on the side of the road because they’ve had to freeze or bin their stock just shouldn’t be the reality, and it shouldn’t be something we have looming over us that could happen again at any time.

Last week the Government told us it had set itself one job – test, trace and isolate the virus in three days – but it has failed, at a cost to all of us.

If the strategy was always for restrictions to last one incubation cycle of 14 days, the Government should have said so. Now we will all pay a heavy price for the Government being out of its depth.

We were told that another outbreak was a matter of ‘when, not if’. The Government had 100 days to ensure the border was watertight, ramp up community testing, and achieve a gold standard of contact tracing.

Aucklanders will rightly ask...

what the hell have we been doing for the last 100 days?

It’s fair to look at the decision to extend Auckland’s lockdown by 12 days and see it as an admission that the Government is out of its depth.

The border should have always been the Government biggest focus. News that it hasn’t tested border and MIQ staff – the people who were most likely to get Covid-19 is unbelievable. Testing numbers fell dramatically in July. People at community testing centres have faced seven-hour delays. Staff at MIQ facilities have been photographed without PPE.

A lockdown might have been the right plan in March given the information we had at the time, but it’s clear the strategy hasn’t worked.

The costs of lockdowns – in terms of mental health, delayed health treatments, small business failures, unemployment and debt for future generations – are just too high.

It’s easy for Opposition MPs to criticise, what I’m proposing is a new strategy. We need to revise the way we’re dealing with Covid-19 because it’s simply unaffordable not to. We have to face up to the fact that the virus isn’t going anywhere, and we have to adapt and live with the virus intelligently.

ACT has set out five principles for better public health: stop preaching fear, have an open debate about our national strategy, treat travel to different countries differently based on risk, use better technology, and use private sector solutions for testing, tracing and isolation.

The priority should be to protect the vulnerable while allowing other New Zealanders to get on with their lives.

I am not suggesting we take the Sweden approach. New Zealand should look to Taiwan, which had managed to have low rates of death and infection without imposing severe lockdowns.

It’s time for an honest conversation about what our overall strategy is. One thing New Zealanders are very clear about today is they cannot afford a rolling maul of blunt and expensive lockdowns

New Zealanders are sick of being told to be kind. We can’t hug our way out of this crisis.

We need a new kind of leadership. We need competence, not just good communication.

This Op-ed is written by the leader of ACT Party David Seymour