Opening the border will eliminate traffic lights, isolation rules, QR codes and test imports
“As New Zealand finally opens up to the rest of the world, the government will find that its absurd COVID restrictions for New Zealanders are almost impossible to apply to tourists,” says ACT chief David Seymour.
“Our rules for vaccine passes, isolation, importing rapid antigen tests and QR codes will seem strange to people in countries that have already moved on, and trying to enforce them will only show how point our own rules are absurd.
“We will now have a situation where a tourist with a negative test is free to take the first taxi out of Auckland airport, but a family contact must self-isolate for seven days. The opening of the border makes our isolation rules stupid, because they are.
“We currently require people to present a vaccine pass to go to a restaurant. As the ACT argued, there is no longer a need for the traffic light system. If the government could provide a reason, is it worth ensuring foreign vaccine passes are recognized throughout the New Zealand system?
“I asked Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield why we still have vaccine passes at the Health Committee last week, they couldn’t say. If there’s no good reason to have a policy, we shouldn’t have it.
“97% mandates won’t get more people vaccinated. The growth of cases is exponential, vaccination mandates no longer affect it. Unvaccinated people can still go to the supermarket and catch COVID, so the benefit of separating them from other activities for their own good and that of the hospital system is limited.
“Technically every tourist will need to download the NZ COVID Tracer app and every business will need to display a QR code. However, you cannot be a contact unless you share a household, so this policy is unnecessary. Are we going to force every tourist to download the NZ COVID Tracer app or write down their name and address in every business they visit for no reason, or just throw the policy away?
“The New Zealand government is persisting with its absurd ban on Rapid Antigen tests that are not on the Department of Health’s list. Are we going to make sure customs searches every tourist’s luggage to make sure they don’t bring in unapproved rapid antigen tests? If tourists can bring all the COVID tests they want, why not New Zealanders?
“We are constantly told that the restrictions will be lifted and that we will regain control of our lives when the peak is reached.
“The mandates only make sense to encourage vaccination, prevent the spread by separating people or reduce hospitalizations.
“The rest of the world is moving on and dropping the restrictions. We desperately need tourists to want to come here – why would they choose New Zealand if they face restrictions on arrival when they could travel to another country and enjoy their holiday without restrictions?
ACT’s Move On plan offers:
• Contact scanning and tracing: Contact tracing creates relatively minor costs, but also offers negligible benefits as it does not reach enough potential contacts or does not reach them quickly enough given the higher transmissibility of Omicron . This results in some people isolating themselves because they are “pinched”, but often not in time to prevent them from transmitting the virus. The isolation resulting from the ping is a growing disaster for businesses and supply chains. The requirement for companies to post codes and have people scanned should be removed, along with the requirement to contact follow-up cases, as this simply does not work. Letting go of these requirements would be an important symbol that we are moving on and getting back to our way of life. This should be done immediately.
• Mask requirements: Well-worn, high-quality masks can help prevent the spread. Wearing the mask probably has significant benefits in reducing the spread of Omicron, although this is sensitive to the quality of the mask. Although extremely irritating, it is one of the few current policies where it is reasonable to believe that the benefits outweigh the costs.
• Boosters: Compared to a two-shot regimen, booster shots significantly reduce the risk of death and serious illness from COVID-19. There is a limited cost. Boosters are an important way to reduce the costs of the inevitable spread of Omicron in the community. Nevertheless, since most of the benefits of booster doses go to those who receive a booster, there is little reason to make them mandatory.
• Vaccine requirements: It is difficult to justify a vaccination mandate solely on the grounds that it reduces the risk of hospitalization for the unvaccinated themselves and therefore the strain on the healthcare system. This effect has already reached saturation. Unless a new booster requirement is introduced, the requirement has a negligible effect on vaccination and should be discontinued immediately.
• Traffic light framework: The government has wiped out major events and hospitality businesses at huge cost without caring about the potential benefits. If they have a cost-benefit analysis for Omicron, they haven’t presented it. We were asked to accept these restrictions without knowing if they would improve us or by how much. Unless the government can show the benefits of restricting large events in an Omicron environment, in terms of reducing peak demand on hospital capacity, the traffic light system should be scrapped immediately so we can all get through to something else.
“It’s time to move on. It’s time to welcome back the tourists we desperately need. It’s time to get back to our lives.
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