Having taken care of International Women’s Day with Beehive announcements early yesterday and children the previous day, the government refocused on Covid-19 and the wellbeing of all of us.
It has established an advisory group to help keep Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on top of his game – and to review the consequences of past reviews – and the PM has guaranteed that every New Zealander will have access to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, after securing an additional 8.5 million doses. Hurrah.
Covid-19 came into considerations, too, when the government announced its intention to legislate to steer funding into support services for mariners. This involves the collecting and directing of levies.
The only other Beehive announcement since we last reported is that candidates working towards becoming part of a specialist rapid emergency response team are being put through their paces at an intensive 13-day training course, attended by Minister for Emergency Management Kiri Allan.
The Emergency Management Assistance Team is a squad of specially trained emergency managers who can go wherever needed at very short notice to assist and support local teams to manage emergencies across all hazards and risks.
The 20 candidates on the training course come from central and local government agencies around the country for the course, in Wainuiomata.
The PM announced the cheering news about vaccines.
She said the Government has signed an advance purchase agreement for 8.5 million additional doses, enough to vaccinate 4.25 million people.
The vaccines, expected to arrive in New Zealand during the second half of the year, bring the country’s total Pfizer order to 10 million doses. That’s enough for 5 million people to get the two shots needed to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This suggests there should be some left over after the anti-vax mob have loudly eschewed the invitation to contribute to the public good by taking their shots, although health authorities can’t know for sure how many of these people might change their minds.
The Government’s original agreement with Pfizer was for approximately 1.5 million doses, enough to vaccinate 750,000 people.
Pfizer was favoured as New Zealand’s primary vaccine provider because its vaccine has been shown to be about 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection.
The Pfizer vaccine does need to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, but the PM said
“ … this challenge is offset by only having to deal with one vaccine, rather than multiple vaccines with multiple protocols. It will simplify our vaccine roll out.”
“With every person who gets vaccinated, New Zealand gets one step closer to moving away from restrictions to manage COVID-19.”
As well as providing vaccines for all, the Government has established an advisory group to ensure New Zealand’s Covid-19 response continues to learn and adapt with a focus on continual improvement.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said independent reviews of NZ’s contact tracing systems and the implementation of its testing strategy provided useful advice and recommendations. Implementation of those recommendations has left us better protected and better prepared.
The new advisory group will formalise this ongoing approach to independent review and improvement.
“As well as continually monitoring the implementation of previous reviews, the group will be empowered to provide impartial advice on the performance and impact of the whole system and the strategic direction of the response.
“It will also provide assurances on the performance and settings of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and on planning for an outbreak, and will review public communications and responses in the community.”
The group will start work next Monday and stay on the job until 1 June next year.
It comprises Sir Brian Roche (chair), Rob Fyfe, Dr Debbie Ryan, Professor Phillip Hill, and Dr Dale Bramley.
Then came the news that the Government is fulfilling its pre-election commitment to allow more support to seafarers visiting New Zealand.
The Maritime Transport Act will be amended through the Regulatory Systems (Transport) Amendment Bill to allow maritime levies to be used to provide support services coordinated by the Seafarers Welfare Board.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said Covid-19 has impacted massively on international shipping lines and this has meant seafarers need support.
Border and health restrictions often mean crews are out at sea for months on end with limited ability to contact their families, he said.
The Seafarers Welfare Board provides support and services to seafarers. It ensured wifi units were made available for ships calling at New Zealand ports, providing a connection to 794 ships. This enables seafarers to connect with their families after months at sea.
The Seafarers Welfare Board relies on donations to coordinate facilities at the country’s ten main ports.
“By giving them long-term funding certainty, we will meet our international commitments and ensure that services to support seafarers’ wellbeing continue to be provided,” Michael Wood said.
The Government is providing interim funding through the Essential Transport Connectivity Scheme for services coordinated by the Board in 2020/21. The Regulatory Systems (Transport) Amendment Bill will be passed before mid-year.
As a party to the Maritime Labour Convention, New Zealand must ensure that seafarers on ships visiting its ports have access to welfare services necessary for their health and well-being, promote the development of welfare facilities, and encourage the development of welfare boards.
Maritime NZ will enter into service delivery arrangements with the Seafarers Welfare Board, which will be paid for from maritime levies. The aim of the arrangement would be to provide secure funding for core welfare services, rather than replace all funding that the board currently generates.
Maritime levies under section 191 of the Maritime Transport Act can be used for a wide range of shipping-related and regulatory purposes, but those purposes do not now include seafarer welfare services.
Latest from the Beehive
9 MARCH 2021
8 MARCH 2021