Wellington, June 4, 2020
As I write this, New Zealand is several weeks into Covid-19 Alert Level 2 and the Prime Minister has announced that Cabinet will consider whether we can safely move to Level 1 at its meeting on Monday, June 8, 2020.
Because of the hard work of our team of five million New Zealand already has some of the lightest restrictions of the world with most businesses open, and gatherings of up to 100 people allowed for various activities including religious meetings.
Going hard and going early has put New Zealand in a stronger position than most other countries.
The number of new cases of Covid-19 has reduced significantly, and any recent new cases have been directly traced to existing cases. The last case of unknown source was in early April, and we have not seen any new clusters for more than a month.
We can now be assured that there is no community transmission in New Zealand.
However, this does not mean that we can relax and risk the recurrence of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
The virus has a long incubation period and spreads very quickly if it gets a foothold.
We are aiming to eliminate the virus so that there are very few cases, and that if they occur we have the systems in place to quickly track it down and isolate it.
The elimination approach is also the best economic approach.
By going hard and early we now have the opportunity to get our economy moving more quickly than other countries who are still battling many active cases.
Our Government is committed to job creation, keeping New Zealanders in work and supporting key sectors such as tourism to bump back and getting our economy moving.
The Budget highlights that commitment.
We are going to address the economy by staying on top of the virus and by carefully easing restrictions as we go along based on expert advice.
We will continue to maintain our defence against the virus.
Basic hygiene practices
We will maintain our tight border controls, widespread testing and put in place gold standard contact tracing. We will maintain our basic hygiene practices such as washing hands, physical distancing and staying home if we are sick.
This is our new normal.
Over the past couple of weeks in Mt Roskill, it has been good to see New Zealanders making the most of our new hard-earned freedom.
Local cafés are visited by locals and restaurants are open while people are careful about physical distancing, waiting outside shops until someone else comes out and signing on the contact tracing forms before entering the premises.
When the time is right and based on sound public health advice, we will be able to move to Level 1 with further restrictions lifted.
Many businesses are adopting innovations like mobile apps for contact tracing of people who visited their stores.
The Government has launched a new app to help us keep a record of where we have been.
It is the New Zealand Covid Tracer. This App will help our public health services identify, trace and isolate cases and close contacts that will prevent further spread of the virus.
The App can be downloaded onto your I-phone or Android on www.tracing.covid19.govt.nz
When you scan the QR codes displayed at different businesses and other public places, you are able to create a secure digital diary of the places you visit.
When you register your contact details using this app, public health units are able to get in touch if necessary. The more of us who use the App, the better we can respond to any new case that may pop up in our community.
It makes that basic wall of defence against the virus, our new normal, even stronger.
Again I thank all of you for your contribution towards eliminating Covid-19 and saving thousands of lives. We are winning this battle, together.
Michael Wood is Member of Parliament elected from Mt Roskill and Chief Government Whip.