Epidemic Response Committee
The last Bridges’ Brief was the very beginning of New Zealand entering Alert Level 4, when we didn’t know how long we would be lockdown. Parents were looking at least a month of not only working at home, but also trying to teach their kids, and the number of cases of Covid-19 each day were still high.
Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The lockdown has been extended for one more week, but we do have an end date. Businesses are itching to get back to work, and I don’t blame them. While we want to kick start the economy as soon as possible, it’s important this is done safely.
During this time though the Epidemic Response Committee has been meeting three times a week and the Opposition has had an important role here. We’ve been making sure the best decisions are being made in the interests of all New Zealanders.
The Committee has been a valuable tool to make sure New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 is the best it can possibly be. No Government would get this right the first time, so it’s been important to evaluate and adapt when things aren’t going the right way.
It’s vital there is strong scrutiny because we’re dealing with things right now that will affect a generation, both in terms of lives but also the billions of dollars that our banks will spend to help get us through.
The Committee hasn’t just focused on Health and the Economy, it’s also looked at Education issues, Social Development, Trade, Small Business, Employment and Primary Industries, just to name a few. During this time we’ve given New Zealanders a much-needed voice in this debate.
Giving informed people like Sir David Skegg and John Hopkins a platform to speak directly to New Zealanders, rather than just the Beehive, has led to a more constructive debate.
The Committee also found there was a lack of information being shared with New Zealanders, and it reversed that. It has enforced real change, very quickly. Just look at the Government’s swift turnaround on testing, quarantining and essential services. Without the Committee, we may still not have full quarantining at the border, and thousands of New Zealanders have been able to read their local community newspaper during the lockdown.
Without the Committee, we wouldn’t know the Police weren’t carrying out compliance checks as promised or that they didn’t originally have the powers to enforce the lockdown.
Calling Ministers to Committee has encouraged more transparency of data and the constructive scrutiny provided by this Committee has already made our response to Covid-19 better and stronger. We’ve been flooded with questions from New Zealanders, and we’ve been getting them answered.
If you want to watch any of the hearings held so far you can find them here: Link to the Epidemic Response Committee Live Stream and recordings
We still have four more days at Level 4 and the lockdown, so it’s important we don’t get ahead of ourselves and start moving around more. Employers are able to prepare their businesses to open, as are principals and schools for children returning, but the rest of us must remain at home. Level 3 is much the same, there will be a little more movement when hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders are able to go back to work, but it’s clear we are still required to stay home where possible and limit our movement.
This can be daunting for a lot of us. We’ve just spent a month in lockdown isolating from the rest of our family and friends, and Level 3 is more of the same. We can include more people in our ‘bubble’, but not many. Please make sure you are looking after yourselves, not only physically but also mentally. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. It is a strange time and we are being tested in different ways. But we are all in this together, so please do reach out and ask for help if you need it.
Attending an Anzac Day Dawn Service is a special way we Kiwis commemorate the sacrifices those before us made to protect our way of life. With services across the country cancelled this year, I'm backing the RSA's call to Stand at Dawn.
They have requested we join them at our front gate at 6.00am on Saturday 25 April to observe one minute’s silence.
I encourage all New Zealanders to get behind this idea if they can still abide by the lockdown rules. This Anzac Day, we as a nation can Stand At Dawn to show how united and strong we are in the face of the situation we are facing.
We will remember the sacrifices New Zealanders before us made, and will show unity and strength despite our current circumstances.
My MPs and I have been flooded with emails and phone calls from New Zealanders who found themselves in difficult situations during the lockdown, whether that was being unable to access the business subsidy, working out if you are an essential service or not, if you can’t get to the supermarket or you’re struggling financially. We are still here to help, so please do get in contact.