New Zealand deserved more planning in this pandemic

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No matter what line of work you’re in, a little bit of planning to get you on the front foot can go a long way.

It’s true for North Otago’s farmers who are busy planting spring crops which will have been in their farm plans for some time.

It’s also true for Oamaru’s retail outlets which I am sure will have plans and orders in place well ahead of the busy Christmas trading period.

There are many aspects of the Covid pandemic nobody could have planned for.

But at the same time, there have been many certainties.

It was inevitable that New Zealanders needed to get vaccinated, but the Government failed to put plans in place for an effective rollout and we slipped to last in the OECD.

As Delta swept across New South Wales earlier this year it was inevitable that the virus would get to New Zealand if the Government didn’t address serious concerns with its flawed MIQ system.

In both of these instances, a little planning would have gone a long way towards protecting New Zealand.

The feeling I have about last week’s announcement of a 90% vaccination target to open up New Zealand and a move to a traffic light alert system is that there is also a lack of strong planning behind it.

The Government has been on the back foot, scrambling to deliver a series of reactionary measures.

During that time my National colleagues and I have been urging Cabinet ministers to uptake the plans we have been working on this year.

These included National’s ‘‘Opening Up’’ strategy, which delivered a blueprint to end lockdowns and reopen New Zealand to the rest of the world.

Our Covid Contribution Visa concept rewarded migrants for helping our country get through its lockdowns and it was pleasing to see the Government follow National’s lead and take up many of its suggestions.

Last week National unveiled its Back In Business blueprint which will save New Zealanders’ livelihoods and unleash our economy from more than 18 months of intense pressure and restrictions.

Effectively, it is a plan for New Zealanders to be able to get back to doing the things they love.

While vaccination is at the heart of strengthening our country’s Covid defences there are many other tools that the Government could be using that can help us along the way.

Rapid antigen testing where results show up within 15 minutes is among them.

There is also saliva testing which helps detect the virus early.

There’s been some progress recently to allow the business community to import rapid antigen tests and to trial home quarantine but we have a long way to go before these things become the norm.

A little planning and investment in new tools to combat Covid will go a long way towards protecting New Zealand in the future.

Right now a little planning would protect the traditional Kiwi Christmas and our summer holiday period.

It would also save many more community events from being cancelled.

Strong vaccination rates in Otago show our communities are doing their part and I will continue to urge the Government to match our efforts.

That means delivering plans now to ensure we can all get back to doing the things we love and being with the people we love.

Jacqui Dean is the Member of Parliament for Waitaki