Judith Collins says alert level restrictions 'starting to look very political'

Source: 1News

Judith Collins says the Government's decisions around alert level restrictions are "starting to look very political".

Her comments come as this afternoon it was announced New Zealand, other than Auckland, will move to Alert Level 1 next Monday, September 21 at 11.59pm.

National’s leader believes restrictions in the South Island have "gone on too long".

"The alert level moves are starting to look very political, we can see here in the South Island Alert Level 2 again," Collins said from the campaign trail in Christchurch.

"We’re starting to wonder very much, because we don’t get the same advice obviously that the Prime Minister has and she doesn’t share it, that these decisions are increasingly being made by a Government, Cabinet, rather than based on health or anything else, we have no reason to believe otherwise.

"I’m feeling they’re starting to get a bit political and I’d like the Prime Minister to front up and tell us exactly how those decisions are made and if they differ or not with the advice they are getting."

Collins also released a statement on the issue questioning today's decision.

"Why is the South Island still at Level 2 when there hasn’t been a case recorded there since the end of May?

"South Islanders have put up with the inconvenience of restricted gatherings, cancelled sports fixtures and half empty businesses. They've had enough.

“While we had a sound response to the pandemic back in March, we’re now in danger of using a mallet to crack a nut when it comes to how we handle this disease. For many under continued lock-down, far from the outbreak, the worst effects won’t come from the disease itself but the economic fall-out of how we handled it."

Sectioning off the South Island was discussed at the September 4 review, however Jacinda Ardern said there would be people who needed to travel up to the North Island, and there also needed to be risk mitigation in case the Auckland cluster moved beyond the city.

Earlier, Winston Peters said New Zealand First doesn't support Cabinet's decision for the rest of New Zealand outside Auckland to stay in Alert Level 2.

The NZ First leader has invoked the "agree to disagree" provision of the coalition agreement in response to the decision.

Peters says New Zealand First "supports the continuation of Alert Level 2 in Auckland", but "it cannot support a continuation of Alert Level 2 outside of Auckland".

He says in keeping the rest of the country at Level 2 the "economic risks" are rising sharply.

“As a Government, we have to weigh relative risk across a number of factors. The elimination of all health risk skews that analysis in favour of theories of transmission that are so far not supported by any actual evidence of transmission outside Auckland, while the economic burden for current and future taxpayers continues to mount.

“The Director-General of Health has stated that the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland is contained. Additionally, he believes there is a low risk of transmission outside of Auckland,” says Peters.

Despite modelling suggesting a small risk of undetected cases outside Auckland, Peters says no evidence has yet emerged that this risk has been realised.

“Businesses outside Auckland affected by Alert Level 2 restrictions are looking to the Government to fairly apply its own agreed upon criteria to match the health situation they face."

Ardern said today her decision not to move most of New Zealand out of Level 2 immediately was based on Ministry of Health modelling suggesting there is still "around a 25 per cent chance of cases moving outside the Auckland region".

She also said today that it's "not unusual" for New Zealand First to take a different stance.

"We did have a majority decision in Cabinet, but it's not unusual that from time to time New Zealand First may take a different view. They have in this case.

"They also took a different view on the timing of the Cook Islands bubble, opening up to Australia and the lifting of restrictions in the past."