ACT takes 'wellbeing approach' with Covid-19 response policy, wants isolation rule-breakers in jail

Source: 1News

ACT leader David Seymour is proposing a “wellbeing approach” to tackling Covid-19 in New Zealand should it end up in Government after the election.

Mr Seymour and party deputy Brooke van Velden said the Government’s response to the virus “can’t be purely about Covid-19, it must be about wellbeing”.

“The only way forward is to start thinking how we can make elimination affordable. And that means no more expensive and damaging lockdowns,” he said.

Mr Seymour said the country needed “deeper levels of defence” than just the border. He proposed that the way to avoid another lockdown was to strengthen contact tracing so that chains of transmission could be isolated within a matter of days.

He urged the Government, as he did in the House on Tuesday, to “stop doing victory laps” and compare itself with countries managing Covid-19 well - such as Taiwan - rather than Victoria in Australia where the virus has re-emerged.

He also praised National’s policy of testing people before they board a flight to New Zealand as being “a very good idea”.

However, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said earlier today the Government saw its around day three and day 12 testing as most effective, as it was hard for the Government to guarantee the quality and speed of testing procedures overseas.

ACT’s five-point Covid-19 border response policy:

Create an epidemic control centre

Mr Seymour said an epidemic control centre would be made up of people from multiple disciplines, like Taiwan's command centre, and be made up of private and public organisations.

He said the centre could  better handle certain aspects of the pandemic response, like handling the technology for contact tracing.

The role of the Government to switch to being the “referee, not the player in the game”

Mr Seymour questioned who was holding the Government to account if it was running the managed isolation facilities itself. He pointed to Taiwan, which allowed people to isolate in AirBnBs while being tracked. 

When asked whether any private sector firm would be willing to take the risk of being liable for further outbreaks, Mr Seymour said they didn’t need to worry if they followed the rules. 

“The military has been overused so far,” he added.

As for handling Government facility absconders, he said: “If the penalties are sufficient, you’ll get compliance.”

He said if ACT was in Government, it would “set clear rules of the game”.

“Otherwise, you can finish your 14 days in Mt Eden [Corrections Facility],” he told rule-breakers.

Augmenting New Zealand’s response with better technology

“We simply are not succeeding when it comes to using technology properly in New Zealand,” Mr Seymour said.

“The administrative problem is the Government has been totally unwilling to partner with the private sector in a meaningful way, so they don’t have these technologies.”

He pointed to ideas like Trade Me Founder Sam Morgan’s Covid Card. 

The estimated cost of introducing the technology to all Kiwis was $100 million, something Mr Seymour said would pay off if it meant the country could avoid the economic consequences of lockdown.

Assessing risk more effectively

Mr Seymour said people coming into the country should be assessed for risk depending on the country they had come from and how widespread the virus was there.

He also said professionals returning to the country shouldn’t be treated the same as returning “gang members”.

The Government  has established separate facilities for deportees from Australia .

Aiming for continuous improvement

He urged the Government to compare itself with the “best in class” when it came to handling the virus, which he saw as Taiwan when it came to a "wellbeing approach".