- Date published:
7:31 am, September 24th, 2020 - 12 comments
Categories: covid-19, election 2020, Gerry Brownlee, Judith Collins, national, Simon Bridges, todd muller - Tags: covid, COVID 19, covid-19
On Tuesday National announced, for at least the fifth time this year, its Covid border policy. But I could recall many other announcements being made this year. So I decided to have a look and see what had changed.
In March there was the Simon Bridges request that New Zealand shuts its border to everyone but returning kiwis.
From Henry Cooke at Stuff:
National leader Simon Bridges is calling on the Government to completely shut the borders to anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident.
Currently the Government has imposed a 14-day self isolation period for all travellers from anywhere but the Pacific, as well as a full ban on travellers from China who aren’t citizens or permanent residents.
Bridges said that given all of the 28 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in New Zealand have come from overseas travel that ban should be extended to all countries.
“The number of Covid-19 cases are increasing rapidly. We’ve seen enough internationally and in New Zealand to know that this is the right move,” Mr Bridges says.
History records that Simon was then deposed as leader by Todd Muller.
Muller had different ideas. He wanted to open up the boundaries. As far and as quickly as possible.
He gave this speech where he urged a position totally contrary to what Simon wanted. From the Otago Daily Times:
“The New Zealand strategy cannot be that we stay locked up until everybody else gets to zero or we have a vaccine. This country would be on its knees if that was the case.”
Earlier in his brief leadership, Muller said the National Party believed Australian skiers should be able to come to New Zealand this winter.
But Muller said the “shambolic” response to testing people in quarantine of the past fortnight meant New Zealanders were now less willing to talk about how we might allow people to visit or travel internationally.
“It has reduced New Zealand’s confidence in having a conversation, because even having a conversation right now creates the sense that ‘oh, you mean we’re going to open the border and get overwhelmed’.
“But you’ve got to start framing up what short to medium to long term country strategy is,” Muller said.
“There has to be a greater standard in market, in terms of health checks, and confirmation of being free of Covid, than what’s been the case, and you should be able to work with Australia and others to land what that looks like.
“Just because it is present in a country shouldn’t mean that nobody from that country has the capacity to visit this country.
“We’ve got to be able to imagine a different engagement with the world than that.”
Muller said it had to be possible to be able to have confirmation of people’s health before they got on a plane and their health status when they got here, to the satisfaction of health and border officials in both countries.
“Then you should be able to have a conversation about what that means. Does that mean when they arrive two more weeks? Or is it a lesser time?”
Asked if he would be comfortable for visitors from any country, Muller said his point was that it was “simply untenable” to not be developing a plan on how to reintegrate with the rest of the world and the Government needed to communicate.
Muller did not last much longer. Then Judith Collins took over.
In July Judith’s deputy Gerry Brownlee announced that National was going to charge new arrivals at the border for their quarantine stay almost immediately if it was the next Government:
Those who need to return to New Zealand have had plenty of time to get home since border restrictions began, including through repatriation flights organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They will have a further two weeks to get home without facing the charge, after the election of a National Government.”
Then version four was released on August 20. From Zane Small at Newshub:
If National is elected to power, it says a new Te Korowai Whakamaru/NZ Border Protection Agency would be set up to provide comprehensive oversight and management of COVID-19 at the border, as well as other public health threats.
People travelling to New Zealand would be required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test three days before their departure. They would then be required to have a test on days three and 12 in New Zealand, as is currently the case.
Then on Tuesday we had what was at least version five announced. From Radio New Zealand:
National wants to boost the capacity of managed isolation facilities by allowing private accommodation providers to join the government-controlled network.
All private providers would need to meet safety criteria set out by the party’s planned Border Protection Agency and would be able to charge people what they like for their stay.
National’s Covid-19 border response spokesperson Gerry Brownlee has announced the second part of the party’s Border Security Plan, and it aims to get more people into the country safely.
The party says the full plan is expected to cost $120 million over four years.
National says it will:
- Implement a booking system for managed isolation facilities to manage more arrivals into New Zealand safely
- Scale-up managed isolation capacity by allowing private accommodation providers to become approved service providers
- Investigate streamlined travel arrangements for low-risk countries and territories
- Invest in new technologies around Bluetooth tracing and rapid testing
National says its plan will “prioritise returning Kiwis while enabling essential and skilled workers, students and, eventually, long-stay tourists to book a place in managed isolation facilities”.
All private facilities will have to meet or exceed required levels of safety, security, reporting, transporting, training and testing, as well as meet the associated costs.
As you can see from this fairly short memory lane trip National has been all over the place on this issue. From no foreigners to let Australian skiers in and cut down their quarantine period to charge everyone full quarantine costs to let them all in if they can afford it to let private facilities provide the quarantine National’s flexibility on the issue is very evident.
And meantime the Government has performed exceptionally well in holding the virus out.
This is an interesting campaign. If the deciding issue is how well each party would handle the virus the decision for Kiwi voters should be simple.