Govt to pump almost $3 billion into its Covid-19 response after report identified failings

The government is pumping another almost $3 billion into its Covid-19 response after a report identified failings with its testing strategy.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Senior advisers Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche were urgently commissioned in August to review the regime after revelations many border staff were not being tested for Covid-19.

The report found problems with communication, accountability, and clarity in the testing framework.

It also found that despite clear expectation of ministers there would be structured testing of border facing workers, and regular advice stating that such testing was occurring, in reality little testing was happening at the time.

“There appears to have been a reluctance on the part of some agencies to contemplate mandatory testing regimes, there was a general lack of forward planning with respect to testing, there was a reluctance to work with employers about how testing could best be implemented at particular sites,” the report said.

The report noted there was also a lack of clarity about who was in charge of implementing and monitoring the testing regimes.

In a letter to the minister by the committee co-chairs it said that the current model is improving, but it’s is not fit for purpose over a longer time period.

“We don’t have a status quo model which is well understood and could serve effectively for the next 24 to 36 months,” it said.

In total, 28 recommendations have been made, of which 25 are for the Ministry of Health.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said actions on five of the recommendations have been completed, with 23 underway.

“Overall, the Committee found that by the time the reports were being written, the required improvements, including border testing, were under way,” he said.

Hipkins said he has found the Ministry of Health willing to take on advice.

The government found during the August outbreak, that there was still a degree of sckeptisim from communities, he said.

Some parts of the community require more intense contact tracing than others, he said.

But he said several hundred people can be contact traced each day at the moment.

“Ultimately you have to judge the system on the results and New Zealand’s results are strong.”

He said the fact the there are still good testing numbers despite no community outbreak in some time is a sign the system is working well.

While the border is seeing more positive cases, he said these are being contained at the border.

The funding announced today will pay for a series of Covid-19-related health activities to June 2022.

It’s committing about $1.1 billion until June 2022 to bolster testing and contact tracing – and roughly $1.7 billion for the managed isolation regime.

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