- By Naisi Chen, Labour list MP based in Botany
On Sunday night, the whole of New Zealand moved into the Red Covid-19 Protection Framework setting following cases of Omicron in the community.
This was the first step in our plan to tackle the variant, which we know is more infectious and will result in far more cases than we’ve seen to date. Our goal at Red is to slow the spread of the virus while allowing life in Aotearoa New Zealand to carry on.
The Red setting enables businesses to remain open and domestic travel to continue, but includes mask-wearing and gathering restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus and keep pressure off our health system.
Our plan for Omicron has three stages. In stage one, when there are less than 1000 cases a day, contact tracing, isolation and testing will continue as part of a stamp it out approach.
Stage two is a transition stage where the Government will focus on those at greater risk of severe illness. Finally, contact tracing and isolation requirements will be adjusted at stage three when there are more than 1000 cases per day. This is a clear plan to tackle Omicron in the community.
With our electorate MP busy in Blenheim, Hamilton and the Hawkes Bay, I’ve also been working with several local businesses around rapid antigen testing. Contrary to what’s been said, these are available for businesses to use! Currently, we have 4.6 million rapid antigen tests in the country and tens of millions of rapid antigen tests on order.
Businesses can directly purchase rapid antigen tests from four authorised suppliers for surveillance testing. There is plenty of guidance on the Covid-19 website and from Business New Zealand about implementing a testing scheme for a workforce.
But as always during this pandemic, vaccinations are vital. 700,000 New Zealanders have already stepped up to get boosted with more every day. If it’s been four months since your second dose, head into one of the 29 vaccination sites in East Auckland and get boosted.
The same goes for parents with children aged 5-11 who are now eligible for a paediatric vaccine developed by Pfizer. I’ve been seeing strong demand for this development that will keep younger members of our community safe. The Government can’t beat Covid-19 alone – more than ever with the Omicron variant, we all need to step up to keep each other safe.