John Campbell challenges Todd Muller on how National would open New Zealand's borders

Source: 1News

Todd Muller says it's "untenable" for New Zealand to remain "locked up" for months waiting for a Covid-19 vaccination.

The National Party leader was challenged by TVNZ 1's Breakfast host John Campbell today over what his party would do about the Covid-19 situation if it was in Government.

"The idea that we stay locked up and essentially wait for a vaccine over the next whatever it be - 6, 12, 18 months - is simply untenable for this country," Mr Muller said.

"The test that I have put to the Government is share with us what the criteria would be for us to, as a country, open up our borders safely and progressively."

However, Campbell pushed back on Muller's response, again asking what he would do as leader of the nation.

"The criteria, of course, has to be informed by your health specialist. What I am doing is posing questions that I think I would as Prime Minister ask of our health officials and our border officials to be able to confirm where it can be done," Mr Muller said.

"The issue is we get none of this detail from this Prime Minister (Jacinda Ardern)."

When pushed by Campbell who said "we're not getting it from you either", Mr Muller said it was because he didn't have the direct line to health officials which Jacinda Ardern had.

"Here's the thinking that I'd be bringing to the table, and at least the questions I'd be asking our senior health officials - that if we have countries which do not have community transmission, that have contained the virus ... not completely eliminated it, but contained it, and have first world health and testing and tracing capacity and they can demonstrate the people that would want to be coming to this country are free of Covid, have a test that can confirm that they are, and then there's agreements in terms of how you safely manage through airports and the airplane itself.

Mr Muller went on to say: "The question then for me is when you come into this country, whenever that time will be, it can't be in the short term because of the shambolic nature of how we're managing it at the moment, but you would hope that they would then be able to have a relatively shorter period of time in quarantine."

Currently people arriving into New Zealand from overseas are required to go into quarantine or managed isolation for 14 days and undergo two Covid-19 tests.

Mr Muller suggested one test, as opposed to the current regulations which require a test early on in quarantine and another near the end of the 14 days in quarantine. 

"We're clearly not ready for it now because of the shambolic management today," Mr Muller said.

"Fourteen days and two tests is totally appropriate for where we find ourselves today with both the domestic clumsy management of our border system and the reality of what sits around the rest of the world.

"If we look out 3, 6, 9 months, what are the conditions, John, for us to be able to open up our borders?"

Campbell then responded that the months' delay was a contradiction to his criticisms of the Government earlier in the interview .

"You're all over the place aren't you?" Campbell asked, adding that last week the Opposition leader was calling for 10,000 international students to return to New Zealand before the second half of the year which is this month.

"What we said is that our vision for international students would be a health check before they arrived and then 14 day quarantine and two tests before they got released and that was predicated on an assumption of a competent border management system that we assume was in place that got clearly exposed over the last two weeks as being clumsy, incompetent and putting our whole country at risk," Mr Muller said.