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54/100 Last Year, Has Our Pandemic Preparedness Improved?

“With just 8 Covid-19 tests performed in the community on Sunday, it’s clear our pandemic preparedness hasn’t improved from a dire report late last year,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Government’s public health response to Covid-19 has been so poor that it would have no choice to put the country back into lockdown if community transmission were to reoccur.

“The next government will have to put in place a rigorous and measurable pandemic preparedness strategy. Right now there is no strategy. The last report was the Global Health Security Index, which ranked New Zealand 35th in the world with a score of 54 out of 100.

“The next government should set a simple goal: get New Zealand into the top ten countries for pandemic preparedness. As epidemiologists Baker, Boyd, and Wilson wrote: ‘The GHSI should be treated as a maturity model, aiming to lift NZ’s score from 54 to 100 out of 100.’

“Unfortunately, there are few signs that our preparedness has improved. We’ve benefited from a mix of blunt measures and good luck rather than smart pandemic preparedness. The report even says New Zealand’s geography means it should be a refuge if a virus decimated humanity everywhere else.

“On Sunday, health authorities did just eight Covid-19 tests outside of managed isolation and quarantine after the Government restricted the testing criteria. Six days ago, we recorded our lowest testing rate since March. This simply isn’t good enough. If there was community transmission, would we even know?

“Meanwhile, virtually no one is using the Government’s $2 million contact tracing app. The Government tried to compete with the private sector instead of coordinating it. Now there are many incompatible apps. People get to their local store and the app they have is different from the QR code on the counter. It’s a mess.

“When the private sector tries to help, it gets the cold shoulder. For instance, the Government didn’t even bother to respond to an offer from a Nelson medical supplies manufacturer to produce PPE for our Covid-19 response.

“All of this points to the fact that we’ve beaten Covid-19 through sheer luck. If the virus was to re-emerge, the Government would need to revert to blunt measures including another lockdown.

“The next government must turn that good luck into good management by becoming a world leader in public health. It must start by setting a goal: Move New Zealand up to being a top-ten country in the Global Health Security Index.

“We must also ask: Where does New Zealand sit now? How much better do we need to get at testing, contact tracing and isolation? Under this Government, nobody knows.

“The Government has one job: do public health right so we can stay Covid-19-free, keep the economy open and prevent another lockdown.

“We can’t afford go back into lockdown simply because the Government hasn’t got its act together on public health.”

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