Anti-lockdown protests 'not an expression of freedom' - Little

Source: 1News

Andrew Little is defending Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland after 5000 protesters on Saturday took to the streets, many without masks or social distancing measures, to protest their dislike for lockdowns. 

Saturday's protest was held the same day as New Zealand recorded it's highest daily cases with 160 new infections to report, of which 151 were in Auckland.

"I'm sorry for people that think their freedoms are being transgressed, but actually you're not particularly free when you're tied up to a bed, whether it's your own or one in hospital, barely able to breathe and you're infecting other people - that's not an expression of freedom," the Health Minister said on Q+A on Sunday.

He told host Jack Tame that while nobody wants to be in lockdown, the measures are in place as to not overload the nation's hospitals.

"We, like everybody, we want to get to a point where we can start relaxing those restrictions, that's why we've set this target of 90 per cent (vaccination for Covid-19 across New Zealand) but if we don't do that, we just sort of let everything go now, I tell you a whole bunch of people would get sick. A lot of unvaccinated people would get very very sick," Little said.

"They'll put pressure on the hospital system, people waiting for other treatments will have to be cleared out and we cannot afford to do that."

Little added that the damage of Covid-19 infection was both immediate and months on, with some people experiencing long Covid symptoms.

"This is a very nasty bug, that's why we take the steps we do - to keep people safe from it," he said.

"No one wants to have the kind of restrictions that have been in place week after week after week, no one wants that, believe me, but we are acutely aware that if we don't manage this in this way and a whole bunch of people get sick, we overwhelm our health system, people won't get the care they need and then you've got doctors and nurses having to make choices about who gets what treatment - it's a pretty ugly place to be in.

"The Government's got a duty to do its best to keep everybody safe, as safe as possible, That's the approach we're taking and that's what we're doing."

However, when asked if police should be doing more to crack down on lockdown rule-breakers, Little said it was a tough job for officers.

"They don't have the numbers to go around arresting 5000 people," he said.