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Securing New Zealand’s Border Against Covid-19

A National Government will inject some steel into our first line of defence against Covid-19 by delivering robust border systems that will keep the virus at bay and allow our economy to thrive, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

“The threat of Covid-19 will be with us for years to come and National is committed to safeguarding the health of all New Zealanders, as well as the wider economy.”

National’s border security plan includes:

· Establishing ‘Te Korowai Whakamaru/NZ Border Protection Agency’ to provide comprehensive oversight and management of Covid-19 at the border, as well as other public health threats.

· Requiring international travellers to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test before arriving in New Zealand.

· Compulsory contact tracing technologies to be used by agency employees, border facility workers, and District Health Board staff who treat or test patients.

· Rapid deployment of Bluetooth applications to enhance contact tracing while also exploring alternative technologies, such as a Covid Card.

· Striving towards a test-on-demand system with a waiting time target of no longer than 60 minutes for a Covid-19 test.

· Widening the availability of Covid-19 testing nationwide.

· Regular testing of aged-care workers and increasing opportunities for testing within aged-care facilities.

· Preparing a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur, allowing lockdowns to be more targeted and shorter in duration.

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“The current ad-hoc system of managing Covid-19 at our border – putting various agencies in charge of different facets – has led to a disorderly and confused response, putting the health and livelihoods of five million New Zealanders at risk,” Ms Collins says.

“More than 1.6 million Aucklanders are locked down right now because the Government dropped the ball on testing, tracing and managing people in isolation. It’s not good enough.”

Reducing the need for lockdowns could not be more crucial. The first lockdown saw 215,000 Kiwis end up on unemployment benefits with another 1.6 million jobs kept alive by wage subsidies. The current lockdown is estimated to be costing Auckland 250 jobs and up to $75 million a day in economic activity.

National’s Covid-19 Border Response spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says a Crown Agency dedicated to defending New Zealand from the virus would be established within National’s first 100 days in Government.

“This agency will be resourced to act as a centre of expertise. It will have the personnel, technology and capability to provide a world-class defence against Covid-19.

“The expensive and ineffective systems we have now aren’t up to scratch. National will manage the border effectively to keep New Zealanders safe.”

In the medium-term, technological advancements will improve our ability to test and track the virus. National will immediately invest and seek to rapidly deploy Bluetooth technologies to enhance contract tracing, making these mandatory for border facility workers and District Health Board staff who treat or test patients, Mr Brownlee says.

“Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy.”

Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says National recognises the need to also prepare a second line of defence, behind our border, so any incursions can be identified, traced and isolated quickly.

“The first line of defence must be strong border management, but a high-quality contact tracing system is a vital second line.

“With strong contact tracing systems and a more sophisticated testing and compliance structure we can minimise the impact of further incursions and protect those vulnerable to the disease.”

National will follow international models and require people coming into the country to not only quarantine but also test themselves for Covid-19 three days before departure, and provide the results of that test to airline staff before boarding their plane, Dr Reti says.

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