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NZ Initiative Supports The Call For Greater Clarity At The Border

Wellington (Tuesday, 2 March 2021) – The New Zealand Initiative welcomes today’s call from business leaders for greater clarity about the border. The Initiative also urges the government to further strengthen the testing regime at the border. Making the border system even stronger reduces risk and would enable more people to travel.

A group of business leaders including Patrick Strange, Prue Flacks, Joan Withers, Rob Campbell, and Scott St John today requested more detail on the government’s strategy at the border, timing on vaccination rollout, publication of the country’s testing capacity and strategy, as well as plans around improving the border.

Initiative Chief Economist Dr Eric Crampton said, “Our border regime has meant that Kiwis have been able to live life as normal for most of the past year. But has come at a terrible cost to families separated by the border, to our universities, and to migrants and the businesses that depend on them. But weaker systems letting the virus in would have been far worse.”

“The country is now moving into the vaccination phase of dealing with the virus. Greater clarity on the timing and implications of the vaccination programme would help Kiwi businesses and families plan for the future. 

“At the same time, if a slow vaccination roll-out means that the border system has to hold for the rest of the year, it is critically important that the system strengthen even further, so it can accommodate more travel.”

“The government has been moving in the right direction. Pre-flight testing of all visitors has already reduced risk. Vaccination of border workers reduces their risk of infection by at least 90%. Adding daily testing at the border is now feasible, would further strengthen the border system, and would enable more people to travel.”

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The University of Illinois’s saliva-based PCR testing system has been in use at a growing number of American universities since July 2020. It received FDA Emergency Use Authorisation this week and is currently being provided in New Zealand by Rako Science.

“Saliva-based PCR testing is at least as accurate as current testing methods but is far less invasive, much less costly, and does not require trained nursing staff to collect samples. Daily testing of everyone in MIQ is feasible. If every visitor in MIQ were tested daily, cases that pop up in MIQ could be shuttled very quickly to Jet Park and would be far less likely to infect others in MIQ.”

“Daily testing would mean more travellers could be accommodated safely. Saliva-based testing also makes it easier to accommodate more visitors, because it does not require scarce nurses. And because any cases pose far less risk to other visitors in MIQ under a daily testing regimen, facilities that might not previously have been considered could be opened for use.”

“New Zealand’s border system was designed around the Covid world of mid-2020. Now, border workers are vaccinated, increasing numbers of travellers will be vaccinated, and far better testing options are available. Updating border systems for 2021 would let more people travel safely while the government’s vaccination programme rolls out,” he concluded.

More information:
Eric Crampton and Leon Grice discuss saliva-based PCR testing for Covid-19, 19 February
We are missing the obvious at the border, Dr Eric Crampton, Newsroom, 16 February
Block the border holes or get ready for another bad report, Dr Eric Crampton, Newsroom, 22 December 2020

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