Buzz from the Beehive: the lights are changing and mandates going as PM declares Covid success (but how will Daniel react?)

 In a letter to the Dominion-Post today, a Daniel Smith from Lower Hutt tells us what he thinks of at least one aspect of National Party policy on Covid-19.

He says recent calls by Chris Bishop and Christopher Luxon to immediately withdraw Covid-19 mandates at a time when the majority of New Zealand is still experiencing very high rates of hospitalisation

“… beggars belief and is nothing less than irresponsible.

“Have these people not seen what has occurred in the multitude of other countries with limited pandemic control measures in place?  If not, they need to start paying attention.”

“Clearly the opposition parties in New Zealand, which are supposed to be advocating for greater accountability, don’t feel they should be held accountable [for] their own poor-quality policy proposals.  We deserve better.”

Whether or not things are better under Jacinda Ardern is open to debate.  But they are different.

The PM has resisted the call to immediately withdraw Covid-19 mandates.  No, she informed us today – they won’t be withdrawn until April 4 (with some exceptions remaining in place).

ACT staffers were monitoring the announcement, resulting in this press statement:

“No wonder we have a productivity problem when even the Prime Minister takes 22 minutes to deliver 2 minutes of information,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

Regardless of the time consumed, Ardern delivered  the most important Beehive announcement of the past 24 hours.

Other announcements dealt with –

  • Tourism – a new direct air link between New York and Auckland “is perfectly timed to capitalise on pent-up demand from North American travellers as borders reopen”, said Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.  Perfectly timed?  He was referring to Air New Zealand’s decision to start the ultra long-haul flight from September 17.
  • Transport – In addition to the 25 cents a litre cut to Fuel Excise Duty for three months the Government can now confirm :
    • From 1 April to 30 June, funding will be provided for local government to implement half price public transport fares covering core public transport services, Te Huia and Capital Connection train services, and Total Mobility services for those with long-term impairments who are unable to use public transport.
    • From Late April to late July 2022, Road User Charges will be cut by 36 per cent across all legislated rates.
  • Mental health – Two more digital tools to help users look after and prioritise their mental wellbeing are being made free and available to download on most smart devices. Funding (not specified, but hey – it’s only money) comes from the $1.9 billion Wellbeing Budget in response to He Ara Oranga – the Government Inquiry into Mental Health.

But most media attention will be focused on news that the PM has declared the Government’s management of the Omicron outbreak “successful” and high rates of vaccination (she contends) mean it’s now safe to ease the restrictions “that have successfully prevented widespread health and economic damage”.

  • From midnight this Friday, traffic light settings will be “simplified”;
  • Changes to Red that will be effective from this weekend are:
    • Capacity limits will be removed for all outdoor events
    • Indoor capacity limits for the likes of bars and restaurants will be doubled from 100 to 200
    • Outdoor face mask requirements will be removed
  • All restrictions other than mask wearing requirements will be removed at Orange
  • Use of the My Vaccine Pass and the requirement to scan in will end on April 4
  • All vaccine mandates will be removed from April 4, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces

The PM said:

“Orange settings remain broadly the same with no gathering limits but extra guidance on holding safe events, and a new requirement for workers to wear masks at indoor events.

“And so, simply put, Red means indoor gathering limits and masks, Orange means masks, and Green means guidance.

“At all levels, the testing and isolation requirements remain as they are now.”

The traffic light framework was being kept to offer ongoing protections in the event of a new variant or in cases of future surges, Ardern said, but

“… our plan is to move down to Orange and then ultimately Green once it is safe to do so.

“Putting people’s health is the best economic approach. The hard work and sacrifices of New Zealanders delivered the lowest numbers of cases and deaths in the OECD for the last two years and puts us in the best position to recover strongly.”

Ardern showed she pays close heed to Finance Minister Grant Robertson on the matter of the economy and  (as he insists) its strength:

“With our economy now larger than pre-COVID levels, record low levels of unemployment, and tourism about to reopen we are in a strong position to accelerate our recovery. Our COVID-19 restrictions have been tough, but they have delivered a strong foundation for us to move forward,” Jacinda Ardern said. 

National welcomed the announcement that vaccine passes and scanning requirements will be abolished, outdoor gathering limits will be scrapped and some vaccine mandates will be phased out.

Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said:

“The Government has finally caught up with reality, which is that Omicron has changed the game and the tools that worked against Delta are now putting unjustified limits on people’s lives and sowing division and discrimination.

 “There is very little point in vaccine passes anymore and it’s good they’re finally being abolished.”

 But he went further :

“The end of the vaccine pass system does call into question the relevancy of the Government’s Traffic Light Framework, which has vaccine passes at its heart.

 “The Government would be better to ditch the whole thing and create some simple rules around masks and perhaps venue limits, rather than persist with a complicated colour-code system that has never been used properly and that barely anyone understands.

 “This smacks of a Government that is simply unwilling to cede control and let New Zealanders get on with things.”

Bishop said today’s mandate announcements are positive, but the Government should also signal a timeline for abolishing the remaining mandates.

ACT’s David Seymour grumbled that the PM didn’t have to give us a 22-minute history of COVID in New Zealand, because we all lived through it and didn’t need to be patronised with a recap.

“A real leader would cut to the chase and then be open to scrutiny from journalists, not preach to us at length.

“The Prime Minister’s real problem is that she’s leaned into fear as a means of control for two years and doesn’t know how to shut down the fear factory. Having fed the fear she has to keep feeding the fear, so we keep nonsensical restrictions for another week for reasons of political theatre.”

ACT reckons  vaccine passes and mandates should be scrapped immediately.

But it welcomes the removal of outdoor gathering limits.

 Latest from the Beehive

Speech

Post-peak plan a safe return to greater normality

After two long years of living through a pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of how far New Zealand has come.

 Post-peak plan a safe return to greater normality

New Zealand’s successful management of the Omicron outbreak and high rates of vaccination mean it’s now safe to ease the restrictions that have successfully prevented widespread health and economic damage.

New York flight makes a brand new start of it

The Tourism Minister says a new direct air link between New York and Auckland is perfectly timed to capitalise on pent-up demand from North American travellers as borders reopen.

Details of transport support package confirmed

Further details of the government’s transport package to support New Zealanders through the current global energy crisis have been agreed by Cabinet.

New digital tools ramp up mental wellbeing support

The Government continues to deliver mental wellbeing support to New Zealanders, with two more digital tools now available for people who experience mental distress.

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