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A week out from the move into the new Covid Protection Framework, or traffic light system, and around the time an announcement was made about a new Covid 19 variant of concern found in South Africa - leading countries, like ours, to adjusting their border restrictions - a document dump revealed the contents of Sir Brian Roche’s report on the review of the Delta outbreak.
Sir Brian Roche is the Chair of the Covid-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group, and the report was delivered in September.
Sir Brian noted in the report there was a real need for “pace and urgency” to deal with the Delta outbreak. The group’s main concerns were around the lack of preparation in the health system to handle Delta given the low vaccination rate at the time, especially vaccination rates among Māori.
The report also said “coherent and fit-for-purpose” alternatives to the MIQ system at the border were needed, the use of saliva and rapid antigen testing needed to become widespread, the systems for interventions such as surveillance, testing, and contact tracing needed to be bolstered, and that lockdowns were no longer economically or socially sustainable.
Nothing shocking there, right?
Sir Brian Roche was absolutely spot on. These are all the issues we have been discussing here on Newstalk ZB over the last few months. Interestingly, the Government responded to the report by pointing out the significant progress made on these issues since the report was written.
Call me cynical, but I can’t help but wonder if the rush of announcements over the last week was the Government quickly ticking a few more recommendations off the list before the report was released on Friday.
We’ve had changes to MIQ, the introduction of rapid antigen testing, $1 billion for improving testing and contact tracing capacity, changes to the traffic light system, the passing of legislation for the traffic light system and mandatory vaccinations - which was expanded to include police and defence force staff - and the announcement of social service support for those infected with Covid. It was indeed a busy week.
Not every issue has been addressed successfully. Work continues to get Māori vaccination rates up, and the Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists has agreed with the report, Sarah Dalton said that the significant issues facing the health system before Delta arrived aren’t going away and the new Covid 19 framework won’t fix crumbling hospital infrastructure and staff shortages.
David Seymour and Chris Bishop are doing their best to hold the government to account for their Covid 19 response, and hopefully National will in time piece itself together as a strong opposition. But this report is a reminder of the importance of the COVID-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group, despite a name which hardly rolls off the tongue, to keeping the government in check, and provide clarity and independent advice.
Dealing with a global pandemic is an exhausting, endless and thankless task. And with this new variant on the horizon - take the help when and wherever you can get it right? This Covid roller coaster is far from over.