The excuse offered by the PM for not quarantining overseas arrivals right from the start was based on the belief that it was logistically impossible. It is reported that the number of average visitors arriving during March is roughly 12,000 per day. In addition, there are about 10,000 Kiwis also returning so 22,000 in total.
Having discovered that the first case of coronavirus entered the country on Feb 26 from Iran, our borders should have immediately gone into lockdown. Allowing 48 hours for those in transit this would suggest 44,000 individuals (visitors and returning Kiwis) would have to be quarantined on arrival. All other scheduled incoming international flights could have been cancelled before they had departed their port of origin.
The quarantining of 44,000 individuals would have certainly been a logistical challenge, but not impossible. I refuse to believe that we did not have the manpower nor the available accommodation to isolate these numbers. There are 10s of thousands of hotel rooms vacant. Assuming that the majority of travellers would be travelling in pairs or more, approximately 20,000 rooms could have accommodated this influx. This would have almost isolated the possibility of the virus entering the population. A very difficult logistical challenge but possible. Additional returning Kiwis could have been quarantined in their own homes.
The real issue was that the Government was not prepared. They were dreadfully short of testing kits and PPE requirements. They had no continuity plan and this lack of preparation has resulted in a multi-billion dollar disruption to this country’s security and economy and the resulting lockdown. And even today, seven weeks after our first case, the PM is “taking advice” about introducing quarantine. “Hard and fast”? They had two months advance notice before the first case was reported in New Zealand. What the hell were they doing?
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