It’s time to start planning for life beyond lockdowns. We can’t keep living with the uncertainty that we could be locked down again at any moment. It’s time to look to the future with a renewed sense of confidence.
Delta has changed the game, with the lockdowns no longer short, no longer sharp, and the periods of freedom likely to be shorter. All the while, isolation remains a growing problem.
For many New Zealanders, these costs are becoming acute and often harrowing. Business associations report rock bottom mental health scores from their members who face serious cashflow problems and great uncertainty about the future. Children are anxious about missing school, and medical operations are being deferred while private practice is shut down.
With the eradication strategy no longer viable, there needs to be a change of approach, based on five movements:
- Recognise that eradication no longer stacks up. We must move to a policy of harm minimisation. This policy should aim to reduce transmission, hospitalisation, and death from COVID at the least possible cost of overall wellbeing
- Move from isolating whole cities to isolating only those who it makes sense to isolate. Personal isolation should be restricted to three groups: those who are medically vulnerable and require special protection, those who have recently arrived in New Zealand and are privately isolating, and those who have tested positive as part of widespread surveillance testing.
- Move from chronic fear and uncertainty and get on a clear path to restoring freedom. We should settle when the vaccine rollout is ‘complete’ and aim to get Kiwis home for Christmas.
- Move from a ‘government knows best’ approach to an approach of openness, and host all in ‘sprints’. In each sprint, the business community and all of society are invited to help reach clearly identified goals of lower transmission rates, hospitalisations and deaths, in time for reopening.
- The entire tone of New Zealand’s COVID response should shift from fear and a singular focus on public health to a focus on maximising overall wellbeing.
Six months ago, ACT released COVID 2.0. The Government implemented nine of the 15 policy ideas in our policy paper, most many months after it was first published.
Today we ask the Government to look at our positive and future-focussed proposal, swallow its pride and take our ideas – sooner rather than later.
New Zealanders are ready to open up to the world, get back to school, get back to business, regain our freedoms, and live our lives to our best potential.
Our COVID 3.0 plan can be found here.
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