By Nick Leggett, CEO, Transporting New Zealand, and republished from the association’s website.
I remain an absolute optimist in life, but I do feel for the people in Auckland who believe they are in a long, dark tunnel and no one can see any light indicating the end.
The Government must come out and tell New Zealanders when the country will accept living with Covid-19 and open up as the rest of the world has. We need a date and a plan.
On Monday [October 18], we witnessed another weak announcement about an announcement by the Prime Minister from the Beehive. Auckland was given no certainty, just more time severely restricted.
There was no clarity on vaccine mandates, targets, and passports, or on how and when the Government will allow businesses to operate to their full capacity and people who desperately need money to get back to work.
Aucklanders, quite rightly, want the Prime Minister to visit the place she calls home to see how much they are hurting. People are in despair.
We continue to be held back by a few who have never followed the rules, and never will, but whom this Government indulge. Their actions are starting to make Auckland feel lawless.
The Government is putting these rule breakers, sick with Covid-19, into the same managed isolation hotels (MIQ) as healthy, tested, double vaccinated returnees. The returnees are now at risk of catching Covid-19 in New Zealand, not wherever they came from that other New Zealanders are terrified are raging with the plague.
The rule-breakers are trashing rooms at their MIQ hotels they are supposed to be recovering in, and escaping and absconding while they are contagious because, these are people who are never going to play like the rest of us.
MIQ is such a mess, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has confirmed he has launched an investigation into the Government’s management of it, having received hundreds of complaints.
In a statement, Boshier said the complaints received broadly fit into four categories. “They claim the allocation system is unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed. I have decided to do my own independent investigation into them all.”
Mt Eden prison had to be closed this week for a deep clean after a man, who escaped from the Holiday Inn where he was recovering from Covid-19, was taken there. The Holiday Inn is operating as a dual managed isolation and quarantine facility.
Doctors and nurses are saying that despite having 18 months to prepare for Delta arriving on our shores, the hospitals are not prepared, they have to ration PPE gear, and there is nowhere near enough staff. Surely, we have had enough time to build ICU capacity? No, it appears not.
I’ve been contacted by journalists serious about the concept of the Covid-19 free South Island cutting off from the North Island. This is not a good idea, by the way, and would be impossible to do.
While we have to remember that New Zealand had a low vaccination rate when Delta arrived because the Government decided to wait to vaccinate us, people have rallied to the call to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. That young people might not have been vaccinated is not their fault, they were at the end of the queue.
We are now at the stage that those who were vaccinated first – older people – already need their booster shot, but there is no sign of that.
If we just face the fact that the Government wasn’t ready for Delta, and didn’t have a plan, they’ve now had time to come up with a plan and they need to share it with us. It needs to be clear, specific, detailed and easy to follow.
Freight companies need to know what is required so they can continue moving goods around the country in trucks, driven by drivers who need to feel confident they are safe.
All businesses need to know where they stand legally with mandating vaccination for employees, as well as people who visit their business, and what will be required to do that and to store personal health records. It would be best if the employees could store their own records, digitally, like they do in Australia. Australians already have both domestic and international vaccine passports on their phones. You check in using the tracer app and it automatically shows the business a green tick if you are double vaccinated.
In Australia, they have recognised that there will always be part of the population who won’t follow the rules like everyone else and won’t get vaccinated.
As Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said in reference to vaccinating, or not, “I can’t look after you if you won’t hop on the lifeboat”.
It’s time those of us on the lifeboat here – the double vaccinated rule followers – were allowed to move back to normal life. We cannot be held back by a small minority.