Jacinda Ardern has agreed to visit Auckland next week after a change to self-isolating rules at Parliament.
Previously, Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard said on October 6 that MPs who have travelled to Alert Level 3 areas must provide a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours before returning to Wellington, then test negative again after self-isolating for five days before returning to Parliament.
However, on Tuesday Mallard changed the rules, meaning MPs will no longer have to self-isolate, but instead produce a negative Covid test.
"Following representations from members I have agreed to change the arrangements for MPs coming from Covid level three areas to Parliament," Mallard says.
"The new requirement will be that members have the negative result of a Covid test taken not less than 72 hours before they left a level three area.
"For the next sitting block House arrangements will be unchanged (i.e. 60 members max) and mask wearing in the house and corridors will continue. The proxy voting arrangements will be unchanged so members coming to Wellington will be optional.
"I have asked the Parliamentary Service to investigate making available rapid antigen testing to attempt to keep staff safe."
Ardern's press secretary told 1News: “With the Speaker removing the rule that was a barrier to me heading to Auckland, I’m now making plans to get there early next week.”
Pressure from ACT leader David Seymour and National leader Judith Collins has been fierce in recent days, both calling for Ardern to visit the city, now in its 12th week of lockdown.
“Jacinda’s visit to Auckland will be long overdue as the city enters its 12th week of lockdown, and if she sees, hears and feels what I saw last week it will seriously change her perspective,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“For 11 weeks the Prime Minister has been listening to civil servants with secure jobs in Wellington at Alert Level 2, she needs to see how their advice computes to the reality of the people paying the bills.
“Let’s hope the Prime Minister’s visit is about her listening to Aucklanders instead of telling them how successful the Government’s response has been. If she goes with an open mind her leadership of the Government’s Covid response will change.
“No leader who’d seen Auckland retailers putting on brave faces behind the masks would make them wait an extra week so that schools can ‘bed in.’
“There are things you understand looking people in the eye that you don’t get on a zoom screen. People are hurting, don’t have faith in the roadmap to the traffic light system, and want certainty more than anything else," Seymour says.
Judith Collins visited Auckland over the weekend and strongly urged Ardern to show up. The National Party leader now welcomes Ardern's change of mind.
"It’s about time. By refusing to visit Auckland because of Trevor Mallard’s rules, the Prime Minister told Aucklanders that they weren’t worth five days in self isolation. Aucklanders have endured three months of lockdown. They deserve better," Collins told 1News.
Her comments come as the National Party is calling for a royal commission of inquiry into the Government's pandemic response this year.