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National Calls For Inquiry Into Valentine’s Day Cluster

The National Party is calling for an inquiry into the Valentine’s Day cluster to see where our response went wrong, and what lessons we can learn.

The scope of the inquiry would include:

· The performance of contract tracing

· Communication of public health messaging

· Whether the testing regime met expectations

· If saliva or antigen testing should be used more fully

· The legality of orders issued around testing and self-isolation

“National thought the call to go out of Level 3 in February was bold and ambitious. At the time we didn’t know the source of the original case, there were two new community cases that day and not all of the high school students had been tested,” Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“It has since resulted in a week long lockdown for Auckland. These lockdowns are costing the economy half a billion dollars each week. It’s the reason this yo-yoing in and out of lockdown must be avoided.

“This week we’ve found out that our contact tracing isn’t the ‘gold standard’ the Government would have us think. We haven’t met critical measures in the latest two outbreaks, and all locations of interest haven’t been disclosed to the public.”

Ms Collins says it is clear public health messaging needs to be improved.

“This week a young woman was vilified by the Prime Minister and her Government for following the advice she received. This has highlighted the lack of urgency shown by the Ministry of Health to follow up on unanswered texts or calls.

“How the domestic border is managed needs improvement too. There were long queues of people trying to get back to Auckland last weekend, and late on Friday afternoon students trying to head home from boarding school were blocked from being reunited with their families at the border with no reasonable explanation.

“We should always be aiming to improve our response, so we should have an inquiry into why Auckland had to back into Level 3 less than two weeks after coming out of a lockdown.

“Going into lockdown should be our last resort and that means making sure our response to any community outbreak is comprehensive.

“If anything, this week has shown New Zealand there is a lot we can work on in our response when community cases arise. We should always be aiming to improve, so an inquiry into the Valentine’s Day cluster is appropriate.”

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