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Iwi Pandemic Response Group Recommend Government ‘step Up’ Testing, Put A Cap On Entry And Māori Vaccination Strategy

The National Iwi Chairs Forum [NICF] Pandemic Response Group has today issued six priority recommendations to the Government.

We are extremely proud of the combined efforts of Government, Māori Organisations and the public at large that have avoided a public health disaster to date, said Mr Mike Smith co-chair of the NICF Pandemic Response Group, it would be a tragedy if we failed after so much effort.

“We understand the temptation to attempt a balance between the effects on the economy and the well being of our population, however the global situation clearly demonstrates the extreme risk of failing to achieve either if the virus emerges in a community outbreak. We need to step up our national response to mitigate risk for both Māori and the general public.”

The summary of priority recommendations to Government of the Pandemic Response Group are:

Recommendation International Travel Negative Test Requirement

The government applies the pre-departure negative test requirement to all travellers intending to enter New Zealand as soon as possible.

Historically positive cases have entered New Zealand from 85 different countries, internationally world cases numbers are spiralling upwards with the new strains B117 and 501Y.V2 already in more than 50 countries.

Recommendation MIQ vs Airport Testing

The government explore the efficacy of testing travellers to New Zealand immediately upon arrival in airports as they disembark.

Recommendation Capping Arrivals and Reducing Active Case Numbers in MIQ

The government must consider capping arrivals at 300 per day or 2,100 per week, and, when the number of active cases in MIQ reaches 20 to 30 cases, cap the number of entries to a lower level.

The number of active cases in MIQ are no longer sustainable with world cases trending past 800,000 per day and no sign of slowing down, and the threat from new strains; at current levels, the number of arrivals into New Zealand are over five times higher than those for Queensland which has a similar population.

Recommendation Vaccine Rollout

The government bring the vaccine roll-out forward for implementation as soon as possible.

New Zealand has 19 cases of B117, the first arrived on 13 December, and one case of 501Y.V2, which arrived on 26 December.

The rapid rise of Covid-19 cases across the world, the emergence of hyper-virulent strains, and the decisions by other governments to bring their vaccination programmes forward, the only reason the New Zealand government would not do so is that they did not order vaccines early enough in 2020.

Recommendation Vaccination Strategy for Māori

The government enter discussions with Māori to bring the Vaccination Strategy into line with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The current New Zealand Vaccination Strategy falls short of Ngā Tikanga o te Tiriti o Waitangi on protection, partnership, and equality, which is contradictory to the epidemic-pandemic history of Aotearoa New Zealand which shows that Māori as indigenous peoples are the most vulnerable people in the country.

Kaumātua, koroua, kuia and other Māori aged over 50 who are at particular risk of Covid-19 are not specifically included as at-risk.

Recommendation Travel Bubbles, Holiday Bubbles, Sporting and Cultural Groups, International Workers and Students

The government must halt all plans to establish new international quarantine-free bubbles and immediately review and risk-assess existing and planned group entry arrangements.

Smith says “currently the situation with quarantine-free travel bubbles, holiday bubbles, bringing in seasonal workers, foreign students, sports teams and cultural groups presents a significant risk of a further outbreak, including by one of the new highly virulent strains of Covid-19.”

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