The Government must not remove COVID-19 protection measures until it is very clear that the Omicron outbreak has passed, the Green Party says.
“Now is not the time to ditch effective COVID-19 protections that are essential for keeping people safe,” says Teanau Tuiono, Green spokesperson for COVID-19 response.
The Prime Minister confirmed this morning that Cabinet is meeting this afternoon to review vaccine mandates, vaccine passports and the traffic light system, with a decision expected to be announced on Wednesday.
“Listening to the Prime Minister today it was hard not to come away worried that the Government could be about to get rid of COVID-19 measures before it’s safe to do so.
“Health experts are clear that three doses of vaccine are required to be fully vaccinated against Omicron. Right now, only around 59% of Māori and 60% of Pacific peoples have had their third dose.
“When it comes to eligible children, only 8% have had their second dose. Among Māori and Pacific children, fewer than 5% have had two doses of vaccine.
“Instead of discussing what COVID-19 protection measures to remove and when, the Green Party believes Cabinet should be discussing how it can continue to protect those most at-risk. Not only to get through the current outbreak, but to prepare for any new variants over winter.
“Were that to be the case, on Wednesday we could look forward to an announcement on how the Government plans to increase vaccination coverage for Māori and Pacific peoples, and children; upgrade the vaccine pass; improve indoor ventilation; and support people to stay at home when unwell.
“Keeping public health protections in place is not only essential for keeping our most at-risk communities safe, it is also necessary to protect our health system.
“With more people in hospital with COVID-19 now than we’ve ever had before, we cannot risk the safety of those people getting the care they need.
“We urge the Government to not only listen to the health experts, but listen to disabled communities, Māori and Pasifika, immunocompromised people, and teachers and principals worried about vulnerable tamariki.