Andrea Vance writes:
While New Zealand was free of community transmission, the Government took a leisurely approach to vaccination.
It was slow to order the vaccine, with the first shipment arriving in mid-February. At that point, Britain had given 15 million people their first jab.
Only one vaccine – Pfizer – is approved for use. Two are provisionally approved – the single dose Janssen jab, of which we have no supplies, and AstraZeneca, which experts don’t expect will be used anytime soon here.
As a consequence, the majority of us are unprotected. Worse than that, the roll-out had to be temporarily paused because of poor planning.
Australia’s programme is on a painfully slow par. And yet, even as Prime Minister Scott Morrison was apologising for the delays, NZ ministers were congratulating themselves for meeting their own arbitrary deadlines.
And we are yet to order any booster shots.
Last week Ashley Bloomfield said there was now a well-developed ICU network across the country.
And yet specialists have warned that emergency departments were at capacity, even before the outbreak.
Sure enough, just a few days into this outbreak many parts of the health system were under significant strain. As of Friday, an Auckland ED was closed, testing centres were struggling to cope with demand, swabs running low and PPE supplies again in question.
Did we increase ICU capacity over the last 18 months? Did we stockpile enough PPE gear? Did we stockpile enough swabs for testing? Answer to all is no.
Self-collecting saliva testing is still not available to the public, despite being widely used overseas and much more convenient. It was only introduced as an option for border workers last month.
It has been used sucessfully overseas for over a year.
These are failings that were foreseeable and are unforgivable. We are yet to learn how the variant penetrated New Zealand’s defences, but the most obvious pathway is a border incursion.
So for now, we will do out bit. Stay home, mask up, relinquish our freedoms and hope the consequences of a lockdown are not too severe.
The responsibility to stop the spread is once again on us – because the Government failed to play its part.
The Government deserves good marks for its lockdowns, but poor marks for most other areas.