Following pressure from the Green Party, the Government has announced that medical masks will be available free for everyone, with N95 masks free for those most at-risk.
“As the Prime Minister has rightly been saying, masks are essential to keeping people safe. But it is the Green Party that has been the only party to consistently call for masks to be made available to everyone, for free. Today’s announcement is a great win for our communities,” says Teanau Tuiono, Green Party spokesperson for COVID-19 response.
“Today’s announcement follows months of political pressure from our Green MPs amplifying the calls of experts and doctors to improve the basic protections we have in place.
“With case numbers rising, it is those with the least who will be most at risk. Providing the same level of protection to everyone, regardless of income, is the best way to keep us all safe.
“We called for free N95 masks back in February when new mask requirements came into force - and we’re pleased the Government has finally taken up most of our call. The Government should have gone further, but this is welcome progress.
“We are also pleased to see free RATs for anyone regardless of symptoms, and expanded eligibility for antivirals. But with the risk of new variants and other winter ills, there is more the Government can do to protect people from getting unwell in the first place.
“We want to see the Government urgently put in place a COVID-19 Action Plan for schools with mandatory masking indoors before the new term begins.
“We also need action to improve ventilation standards for buildings, financial support for community organisations to install better monitoring and filtration, and support for Māori and Pacific health providers to boost vaccinations.
“The pandemic isn’t over, and we need to be prepared by putting in place protections for the long-term wellbeing of our communities, especially our disabled, immunocompromised, under-5s and elderly whānau,” says Teanau Tuiono.