Opinion: Govt response to Coronavirus concerning

We are incredibly lucky to live in a country like New Zealand during international health crises, like the recent coronavirus outbreak in China, where our geographic location can isolate us from harm.

So far, the virus has not made itself to New Zealand and, as I understand it, there are no suspected cases either. There are people in quarantine such as those evacuated from the epicenter in Wuhan and many self-imposed, but the virus seems yet to reach our shores.

Like many of you, I am concerned about the possibility of the coronavirus reaching New Zealand. As a country, we should be preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. This does not seem to be an attitude shared by this government.

Instead of doing everything in its power to protect New Zealand from the coronavirus, the government has so far been multiple steps behind with its response.

I have had many constituents approach me having recently returned from overseas who were concerned at the complete lack of screening done at our international ports as well as the lack of information made available.

Besides being handed a pamphlet, no-one appears to be asking questions of those coming into our country, about where they may have travelled and whether they could have been in contact with the virus.

It seems to me that this would be both a simple and effective way to help prevent the spread of the virus in New Zealand. By checking people at our borders, we can ensure the right measures are being taken to protect all Kiwis.

Last Friday, I met with the general manager of the Counties Manukau District Health Board to share my concerns about our response to coronavirus.

I was reassured to learn that while the government response is lacking, it appears our DHB is well-equipped to deal with any cases that may show up in the coming months.

In CMDHB’s zone alone, I was informed we had scores of isolation rooms available at Middlemore Hospital with many of them ‘negative pressure’, in case the virus is indeed airborne as recent reports appear to suggest.

I was also told we have a multi-month stockpile of relevant safety equipment like face masks and personal protective equipment to serve health care professionals well if the virus does indeed make it here.

While there is no need to panic, the government certainly needs to take this threat far more seriously than it has so far, and National will continue to put pressure on the government to do just that.

Simeon Brown

MP for Pakuranga