The Public Service Association welcomes the release of a government review heralding increased resources and personnel, and improved coordination between agencies in the pandemic response.
The union says front line staff will feel safer following the government’s announcement of $150 million in additional PPE, and new provisions for returning citizens to wear masks during flights and in the common areas of isolation facilities.
PSA members appreciate the review’s recognition that staff have been involved in the virus response effort for a “significant period with little or no real respite”.
Many staff in the Covid-19 isolation programme are burned out after months of stressful work, with some still forced to endure Level 4 lockdown conditions.
“For most of us, life is mostly back to normal. But in the airports, hotels, and government ministries where the fight goes on against Covid-19, PSA members continue to face considerable stress on a daily basis,” says Glenn Barclay, National Secretary of the Public Service Association.
“The only people still routinely facing potential exposure to a deadly virus are our members and their colleagues in the managed isolation programme, and they have been undeniably successful in preventing community transmission. Unfortunately, irresponsible and cynical political rhetoric risks exaggerating isolated errors and causes undue stress to those who keep us safe.”
The PSA represents employees from agencies such as the Customs Service, the Civil Aviation Authority and Aviation Security Service, the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Health, many of whom have worked continuously on the Covid-19 response since before lockdown began.
Most people have been patient and understanding during compulsory isolation, but some returnees cope poorly with psychological pressure and have taken this out on staff members around them.
Union members have also raised concerns about uneven provision of meal allowances, PPE and suitable living arrangements for staff required to reside in the isolation facilities where they work.
“The government’s review of New Zealand’s managed isolation strategy has identified both problems and solutions. We expect the programme will evolve as required, and PSA members will continue to implement it with the dedication to excellence that has kept the virus at bay so far,” says Mr Barclay.
“Up until a few weeks ago we didn’t have a quarantine service and we had to stand one up urgently, out of nothing. This is a significant achievement by our members and their agencies, and they deserve our gratitude and respect.”