Jacinda Ardern admits 'holding my breath' as Kiwis enjoyed summer

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Jan 2021, 11:06AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Jacinda Ardern admits 'holding my breath' as Kiwis enjoyed summer

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Jan 2021, 11:06AM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has dubbed 2021 the "year of the vaccine" and outlined parts of her government's plans for a mass vaccination rollout across the country.

She was speaking to MPs at Labour's annual caucus retreat in Nelson this morning – the traditional beginning-of-the-year gathering before the political year kicks off in earnest.

Her remarks were focused on Covid-19.

"Our job," she told MPs and ministers in the room, "is to get us through this year and to get us through the worst health and economic crisis the world has seen in our lifetime."

This is her government's "top priority", she said.

Ardern reflected on 2020 – a year she had previously labelled as "horrendous" – but was mostly forward-looking.

"Our goal has to be to get the management of Covid-19 to a similar place as we do seasonally with the flu.

"It won't be a disease that we see simply disappear after one round of vaccinations across the population."

But she said the goal was to put Covid-19 in a place where a vaccine programme can be rolled out every year – much like is the case with the flu.

"Ongoing vigilance is going to be required for 2021 as much as 2020, and even more so."

In terms of when those vaccinations will occur, she stuck to her previously announced timetable – health and border workers in the first quarter of the year, a mass vaccination push in the second half of the year.

"In all – we have a very big year ahead of us."

Ardern also revealed that it had taken her a while to get into holiday mode this summer as "I was slightly holding my breath" due to the looming threat of the virus.

However, Covid-19 was not the only focus for the Government this year, Ardern said.

"While our focus on Covid will be constant, we all know the reason we came into politics were many reasons we didn't encounter last year."

She said she did not want the other challenges to be "a bit part" of the Labour Government's programme - referring to housing, the environment, the climate and children.

Ardern said the economy was a big priority: "The recovery has even surprised many of us. It has been exceptional. But that has been by design."

The reason for going "hard and early" was to help ensure the economy could recover fast.
She would set out Labour's housing policy later today.

"We have a rolling agenda addressing the action that is required to make sure we fulfil the carbon budgets that will be coming our way later this year.

"None of us want those issues we feel so strongly about top be sidelined by the pandemic. So our job is to ensure we stay on top of it, along with the team of five million."