- By Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga
Aucklanders have faced the greatest level of Covid-19 restrictions than any other part of New Zealand over the past 18 months with the city being host to the largest proportion of MIQ facilities and the fact that Covid-19 has leaked out of these facilities on a number of occasions.
Whilst a move to Level 3 may come as a relief to us all with the ability for many businesses to start operating again and the ability to get a takeaway coffee or KFC for dinner, this will only be the start of Auckland’s pathway out of lockdown.
The reality is that Aucklanders need a plan out of this lockdown but the Government has not yet provided one.
Central to providing Aucklanders with a plan out of this lockdown is an answer from the Government to the question as to what is the percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated.
So far the Government has failed to directly answer that question. The Prime Minister has provided the aspirational yet unachievable target of ‘everyone’ whilst the Minister of Health has suggested that the number should be somewhere around 90 per cent.
Worryingly, the Minister of Health said that this target would be needed to avoid Level 4 lockdowns but stopped short of saying whether it would also mean an end to Level 3 lockdowns.
New Zealanders have sacrificed significantly over the past 18 months. Businesses have been shut down, people have lost income, hospital operations have been delayed or cancelled, people haven’t been able to say goodbye to loved ones who are dying, in the way that they wanted. This has had a very real impact on people.
Lockdowns have also cost us as a country. Each week at Level 4 costs the taxpayer approximately $1.5 billion in increased Government expenditure, a completely unsustainable pathway forward for a country which borrowed $50b last year to respond to Covid-19 and which the Government has signalled may need to borrow another $40b this year.
This places a significant burden onto future generations to repay – a concern which must be taken into account by the Government and all New Zealanders.
With a vaccine now widely available and more and more New Zealanders taking it up, it is time that we were given a pathway out of this lockdown and the certainty needed to ensure this is the last.
National has stated that a vaccination rate of 70-75 per cent should be set to ensure we no longer rely on lockdowns to respond to Covid-19 which is similar to the pathway put forward by the Australian Government.
Whatever the number is that the Government sets, it is critical that a goal is provided so that Aucklanders and the rest of New Zealand can have certainty over what the future holds and so that we can get our lives, livelihoods and freedom back.