Strong public health measures are more vital than ever, the Green Party says as the Government removes many longstanding COVID-19 restrictions.
“Today’s decision will leave people wondering if the Government has given up. The near complete removal of longstanding protections will be of considerable concern for immunocompromised and disabled whānau whose wellbeing should be at the centre of the Government's response,” says the Green Party’s spokesperson for COVID-19, Teanau Tuiono.
“What is certain is that COVID and other respiratory illnesses are here to stay. We will be living with new waves of the infection for many years to come. Focus must immediately shift to slowing the spread of COVID-19 through long-term protective public health measures, alongside equal access to all future vaccines.
“The risk people face from long-COVID and the potential for new, more infectious variants hasn’t changed. The Government must invest now in long-term protections. This is particularly vital for ensuring that our disabled and immunocompromised whānau can continue to go about their normal lives without putting their health at greater risk.
“Public health measures work best when they become part of our everyday lives. As a minimum the Government has to be able to guarantee clean air inside buildings through air quality monitoring, strong ventilation standards, and air purification.
“In the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, the Government didn’t leave it up to individuals to decide how safe they wanted to make their homes and workplaces. It reviewed the Building Code and made changes that would improve the safety of everyone. Now is the time to do the same for COVID.
“The Government must also make sure there is ongoing support for Māori and Pacific communities to roll out boosters and new vaccines so everyone is protected equally.
“This needs to be part of a community-centred approach where those who are most at risk, including disabled and immunocompromised people, are at the table for making decisions about how to respond to future waves of COVID. There is no doubt that COVID hit some communities far worse than others. Living with COVID could make these inequalities even worse if we do not put the health of those most at risk at the centre of our response.
“The single biggest lesson from this pandemic is to act early, decisively and globally to prevent problems becoming much bigger. With case numbers coming down and the pressure easing, the best thing the Government can do right now is prepare for all possible scenarios for dealing with this unpredictable virus,” says Teanau Tuiono.