The Green Party welcomes a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic – but is disappointed with the narrow scope.
“There is no doubt that an inquiry will provide some useful lessons for future pandemics. But, the inquiry appears deliberately narrow in scope and excludes the impact the Government’s economic response had on inequality,” says the Green Party’s spokesperson for the COVID-19 response, Teanau Tuiono.
“The terms of reference also appear weak when it comes to the Māori and Pasifika.
“There is no doubt that COVID hit some communities far worse than others. We would like to see more focus on exactly what went wrong with the vaccine rollout in these communities.
“This should also include the advice the government received on the impact removing COVID restrictions would have on Māori, Pasifika, along with putting measures in place to support our immunocompromised and disabled whānau,” says Teanau Tuiono.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick added: “Over the last 12 months, the Greens have led the call for an Inquiry into the COVID-19 Economic Response. The terms of reference released today fall short by focusing almost exclusively on the immediate economic pandemic response.
“The Government and Reserve Bank had advice in early 2020 that showed an over-reliance on unconventional monetary policy would increase inequality. And yet, they pressed on and presided over one of the largest transfers of wealth we have ever seen.
“To fully understand the economic response, we need an inquiry that will look beyond the necessary immediacy of economic decisions - which undoubtedly kept people in jobs - into the consequences still being felt today.
“Some economists estimate the price paid was about a trillion dollars from the lowest wealth New Zealanders to the wealthiest. This really matters in the context of today’s inflationary environment, which impacts low income New Zealanders the most,” says Chlöe Swarbrick.
“To state the obvious: the pandemic is not over. Forty people have died from COVID in the last week alone. There have been nearly 35,000 cases and 418 hospitalisations’ says Teanau Tuiono.
“It is quite clear that our response to COVID needs to continue evolving as we will be living with the infection for many years to come. Preparing for the impacts of Covid over the Summer needs to be a top priority for the Government in the short term while also preparing for the long term impacts of long covid”
“Focus must return to slowing the spread through long-term protective public health measures, such as improved air quality standards indoors and equal access to new vaccines,” says Teanau Tuiono.